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Published November 15, 2012, 11:40 PM

Non-cosmetic Botox use eases symptoms

FARGO - Botox isn’t reserved solely for reducing fine lines and wrinkles. The most potent naturally occurring neurotoxin known to man can be used to treat symptoms of medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, chronic migraines and excessive sweating.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO - Botox isn’t reserved solely for reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

The most potent naturally occurring neurotoxin known to man can be used to treat symptoms of medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, chronic migraines and excessive sweating.

And it’s effective.

“It’s just like with many other medications that are actually poisons – it’s how we use them and where we use them that make the difference,” says Sanford Health’s Dr. William Klava.

Although Botox isn’t a “cure” for any of these conditions, it can prevent the social embarrassment of excessive underarm sweat, reduce hours of work missed because of migraine pain, and improve a young athlete’s pitching stance.

Cerebral palsy

Klava says Botox almost revolutionized the care of children with cerebral palsy because it forces muscle relaxation and improves limb function.

Symptoms include spastic movement of the arms and legs and sudden muscle stiffness and contraction caused by miscommunicated signals between the brain and the limbs.

Botox interrupts the communication between the spinal cord and the nerves, which stops the sudden jerking movements.

“When I use it, I’m relaxing the muscle so the child can stretch out better and achieve motor functions and activities that they couldn’t achieve because certain muscles were too tight or too spastic,” Klava says.

He’s used it on kids as young as 2 months and adults as old as 90, and results typically last between four and six months.

“One of the beauties of it as a medication is that if the result you get is not exactly what you want, don’t worry, because it wears off,” he says.

Although it can be used “almost anywhere you have muscle,” Klava says it’s most commonly used in cerebral palsy patients’ bicep, forearm, hamstring and calf muscles.

“We keep expanding what we utilize it for and how we utilize it as we gain more experience with it,” he says.

Chronic migraines

Last spring, after reading an article in The Forum about Botox treatment for migraines, Sara Eeg of Greenbush, Minn., asked her doctor if she was a candidate.

The 36-year-old mother of four had suffered from chronic migraines for as long as she could remember, and she’d tried everything, including anti-seizure medication.

“My headaches were just constant. I would have a headache when I woke up in the morning, and I’d have a headache when I went to bed at night,” she says.

So far, Eeg has had three series of injections spaced three months apart.

“Each time I’ve gotten the injections, the pain relief has lasted longer and longer, whereas the first time it kind of wore off after a while,” she says.

She says the shots – 29 the first time, then 31 and most recently 33 – “just pinch a little.”

“The benefits are way worth it. I told her the other day, ‘I would do it every week if I could,’ ” Eeg says of the treatments with Dr. Cynthia Knutson.

Since she started treatment, Eeg says she’s had more energy, she’s more focused, and she’s more interested in life.

“It’s unreal. I feel like I’m better at everything,” the home care administrator says. “My brain isn’t so focused on hurting.”

Knutson, a neurologist with Sanford Health in Fargo, says she’s been seeing plenty of new chronic migraine patients seeking Botox treatment.

“I do Botox one whole day a week, and I’m actually adding another half-day because I’m getting more requests,” she says.

Chronic migraine patients develop a lot of tension in the head, neck and shoulder muscles, and when Botox injections relax those muscles, the headache pain fades.

Injections go in the forehead, above the ears, along the base of the skull, at the top of the neck and into the top of the shoulders.

“It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for a large majority of patients who have this type of migraine,” Knutson says.

Excessive sweating

Dr. Yulia Khan, dermatologist with Sanford Dermatology & Laser Clinic, says Botox is a last-resort treatment for hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating.

“A lot of people say it’s lifesaving because they’ve tried a lot of different things,” she says.

The injections – usually about 20 – into the superficial layer of the skin in the underarms (and sometimes the forehead, back of the head, hands or feet) stop most sweating at the site for six to eight months at a time.

“With each repeated treatment, that period extends more and more,” Khan says.

Results are reversible, so sweating returns over time, and most hyperhidrosis patients know when they’re due for an appointment.

“Instead of affecting muscles, like in the case of spasticity, or for cosmetic rejuvenation, it works on the nerves that affect the sweat glands,” she says.

Most of Khan’s patients, both male and female, are between the ages of 15 and 35.

“It tends to be younger adults because excessive sweating becomes more prominent after puberty,” she says.

Other uses of Botox

• Crossed eyes

• Eye twitching

• Gummy smile

• Teeth grinding

• Vocal cord dysfunction

• Urinary incontinence or overactive bladder

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590