What is it?
Botulinum toxin is frequently referred to as Botox® which is the brand name and original form of the drug produced by the company Allergan. There are now other companies who make the drug. Botulinum toxin is a protein that is produced by a bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) that causes botulism which fortunately is now a rare infection.
How does it work?
The toxin works by blocking the chemical at the end of the nerves so that it cannot work on the glands or muscles. In the case of the sweat glands it turns then off to reduce sweating.
What is it used for?
It is now used widely to treat a wide variety of medical problems including hyperhidrosis but is probably more widely known for its cosmetic uses to remove lines and wrinkles form the face. In the UK it is licensed for treating axillary (underarm) hyperhidrosis and is done by a small number of NHS hospitals but is mostly a private treatment (you can use the doctor finder to find a clinic near you). It is generally very effective for treating hyperhidrosis BUT the effects eventually wear off after about three to six months.
How is it done?
It requires multiple small injections of the toxin a few centimetres apart in the armpit. Although not licensed, some doctors do use it for treating hyperhidrosis of the hands, feet, parts of the body and even the face. As you can imagine, injections here tend to be more uncomfortable.
What can go wrong?
As long as the doctor doing the treatment is experienced and knows the anatomy of the surrounding area then there are rarely any serious side effects. It can affect the nearby muscles making then weak. This could be of greater concern in the face. Pain at the site of the injections is not uncommon. Sometimes patients experience flu-like symptoms, tiredness and blurred vision. It is very important to discuss all of the possible side effects and complications with your doctor that are relevant to you and the site of injection of the toxin before you consent to treatment.