Migraines cause a lot of pain, often in the form of an acute spell of headache. It may also be accompanied by sensitivity to light as well as a few abdominal discomforts like vomiting or nausea. These spells can persist for days at a stretch, or may disappear in a matter of few hours. No two persons have reported the same symptoms and signs associated with migraines. In general, women are known to have it at least 2 times more than males. If any of your family members – especially, parents – have had it earlier, you are very likely to have it. There are many causes attributed to the onset of migraines. Treatment options include intake of pain killers, drugs belonging to a family of meds called as “triptan” or taking a few shots of botox. These shots are classified as preventive medications. Botox – i.e., botulinum toxin type-A – may however trigger a few side effects.

The generic form of botox is called onabotulinum-toxin. Of the various types of this chemical, the commonly used forms are either type A or type B. Botox is used for a range of medical conditions such as stiffness of muscles, eye-based disorders, migraines, etc. Among people living with migraines, botox is administered as a preventive measure. This treatment has been cleared for chronic spells of migraines since start of 2010. It is administered to offer relief from tension-triggered headaches; especially, to people who complain of headaches in as many as 2 weeks in a month. However, botox is not administered onto people who experience headaches for lesser number of days, say 5 to 10 days of a month.

Botox for the treatment of migraines –

If botox is consumed or ingested, it can lead to fatal outcomes such as nerve injuries and impairment of motor function, caused mainly by the stiffening of your muscles. The dose of botox administered to correct ocular disorders, migraines or an over-active urinary bladder condition is of very miniscule quantity. This dose is kept at a bare minimal level, i.e., at a much lesser level than what causes botox to contaminate foods or generate toxic properties with near-fatal and fatal outcomes. The use of botox to treat migraines was an accidental discovery. When people used botox to remove wrinkles, those who had a history of migraines reported a relief from chronic headaches. Thus, the use of this drug became popular as a preventive measure for migraines.

Physicians who treat migraines attribute its efficacy to its ability to control neuro-transmitting substances from carrying pain signals. In order to feel pain, nerve-ends located at your neck or head need to receive brain chemicals. As botox erects a barricade, the signals seldom reach your nerves. This action is largely seen as a reason for the relative success of botox in treating chronic spells of headaches. Thus, it has been inferred that a shot of botox every 3 months can numb or help avoid the onset of severe headaches. It is possible to witness a relief as early as 15 to 20 days from the date of starting your treatment.

Side effects of using botox for migraines

There are different types of treatments accorded for managing migraines with the use of botox. The side effects are largely dependent on the type of treatment chosen. Standard treatment constitutes a total of 30 to 33 shots; half of these shots administered on the right side of the head while the other half is given on the left. These shots are given in as many sites, spanning the neck area as well as head. Possible sites at which the shots are administered include rear side of your ears, in-between the shoulders, mid-portion of the forehead, edges of the eyebrows, near the temples, etc.

However, some people may report pains on one side of their head; for such pains, additional shots are provided. Most common side effects of using botox for migraines are pain in the neck as well as head. The aforesaid two reactions are usually reported by almost all people who take shots of botox. Other side effects of a milder nature include stiffening of muscles (especially near the site of botox-shot), drooping of eyelids and mild level of pain, weakness or spasms at the site of the shots.

Most of the abovementioned discomforts go away within a few days or weeks. But, the problem arises when one or more of these milder side effects fail to disappear. Upon experiencing a persistent spell of signs such as drooping of eyelids or cramps, pains, etc., you are advised to talk to your treating physician as soon as possible. Your physician may either recommend a few drugs to treat these conditions or may resort to an alternative medication / treatment plan.

Relatively serious or acute side effects of administering botox for migraines are inflammation of oral organs such as throat, lips or tongue, problems experienced while swallowing foods or fluids, slurring of speech function, blurring of eyesight, etc. Upon experiencing any of these side effects, you are advised to seek medical support on an urgent basis. If you are living in the US, you can contact 911 or a local poison control center. You may also consider contacting the emergency helpline numbers of the food and drug administration (FDA). On the other hand, if you are living in any of the Canadian provinces, you need to quickly reach out to Health Canada or a poison control unit located in your province.

Allergies or hypersensitivity

Botox is unlikely to cause any serious allergic reactions in many people. However, you may need to identify a medical specialist who has rich experience in the administration of botox to reduce or control the spells of migraines. If you are allergic to botox or have hypersensitivity issues, you are likely to witness a few allergy-triggered discomforts. These allergies are, in general, very rare. But, when they occur, you may experience nausea, inflammation of lower limbs, respiratory problems such as gasping for breath, a feeling of being suffocated, wheezing etc. In very rare instances, a few people have reported an incidence of hives or rashes on skin. In extremely remote instances, botox may move to other organs; this is considered as a very dangerous condition. It may also lead to near-fatal as well as fatal outcomes.

Doctors who specialize in administering botox for cosmetic treatments, say – removal of wrinkles, uplifting the beauty to facial organs, etc. may not be trained in using botox to treat migraines. You may hence need to identify a qualified physician who is specifically trained in using botox for the treatment of migraines. This is also because the type of botox used for cosmetic treatments (such as arresting wrinkles or giving a facial lift) is very different from that used for treating headaches or migraines. As part of its protocols, the food and drug administration (FDA) has a tab on all the drugs it has cleared as “safe to use”. As botox stands approved by the FDA, you are advised to report any unknown, new or strange side effects to the helpline of this central drug clearing agency without any further delay.

Prior medical conditions

Your treating doctor may advise you to stay away from using botox for migraines if you have a few medical conditions. These include muscular disorders such as myasthenia-gravis and / or amyotrophic-sclerosis (lateral type).

Myasthenia-gravis affects the nerves as well as muscles; its incidence is attributed to the loss of communication between your muscles and nerves controlling them. The characteristic signs of myasthenia-gravis are drooped eyelids, doubling of eyesight, paralysis of facial muscles, respiratory problems, etc. On the other hand, amyotrophic-sclerosis (lateral) – widely known as ALS, impairs the functioning of your spinal cord as well as the brain. This condition can result in inability to control your voluntary-muscles. It can affect the nerves that are vital for your motor function as well as speech function. The typical signs associated with ALS are secretion of excessive amounts of saliva, respiratory problems, inability to move your tongue, problems while trying to swallow foods, etc.

Women who are pregnant need to stay extremely cautious of botox. It is not recommended to administer botox onto pregnant women. If you need any clarifications on such usage, it is a good practice to talk to a qualified medical practitioner prior to taking a shot of botox. Also, women who are nursing an infant are not advised to take shots of botox. The side effects of such usage can turn near-fatal for the feeding infant. It is hence strongly recommended to talk to your doctor prior to using botox if you are breastfeeding an infant.

Above all, the effectiveness of botox as a treatment for migraines may vary from one individual to another. A few people may not respond well to the shots; the good thing is – you need not have to wait for a long time to know if it works for you or if your body responds to such a treatment. Over a matter of one or two shots (each shot is given once in 3 months), your doctor may be able to assess how well your condition has improved. Based on the initial signs of improvement or no-improvement, additional courses are planned or given up, respectively.

To sum up, administration of box may very rarely trigger acute reactions or serious side effects. However, a few common discomforts may occur, which include muscular pains or weariness as well as stiffening of the neck. Among serious side effects – which are highly remote – you may experience are blurring of eyesight, discomforts while you are trying to swallow foods or fluids, slurring of speech, swelling of oral parts like throat or lips, etc. If you experience any of these acute discomforts, seek medical support on an emergency basis. You can either call 911 or a local poison control center immediately. Those residing in Canada are advised to call Health Canada or the poison control unit located closer to your home or in your province.

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