BOTOX® has been used since the 1970s for various medical conditions, but it was only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of migraine headaches in 2010. Since then it has become an accepted method of providing relief for sufferers. Here’s what you can expect when you choose BOTOX as a migraine treatment option.
Who Should Have BOTOX Treatment
Most forms of medical treatment apply only to patients who display specific signs and symptoms, and this is also true of migraineurs. BOTOX is recognized as a treatment for patients suffering from chronic migraine, and who will benefit from a reduction in the frequency and severity of their headaches. You may be a candidate for BOTOX treatment if you suffer from headaches on 15 days a month or more, if at least 8 of those days bring migraines, and if the headaches last for 4 hours at a time or longer.
What Treatment Involves
Migraine treatments typically require the patient to take medication after their headache pain begins. The purpose of using BOTOX, however, is to prevent headaches and migraines before they start. A migraine specialist gives the medication in the form of a set of 31 injections with a small needle, which feel like tiny pinpricks in 7 primary areas of the patient’s head and neck. The injections are administered approximately every 12 weeks and take around 15 minutes at the doctor’s office each time. You will need to have the first two treatments before you can expect to get the full effect of the BOTOX.
How BOTOX Works
BOTOX is a neurotoxin derived from a natural organism found in lakes, streams and coastal waters, which targets the patient's nervous system. In high concentrations it’s considered exceptionally toxic, but in small concentrations it stops brain signals from reaching certain muscles. This prevents the muscles contracting, which means the patient doesn't feel any pain. For chronic migraine sufferers, it helps reduce the number of headache days a month by approximately half, as well as the intensity of the migraines. It isn’t a miracle cure, but it does provide substantial relief for patients.
Benefits of Treatment
The treatment procedure has a number of advantages for sufferers. Apart from the benefits of reduced migraine pain and frequency, the injections are quick and simple. Patients do not require any form of sedation and most can drive themselves home directly afterwards. The medication can begin to show results within 72 hours after injection, although most patients experience the full benefit only after the second treatment. The side effects of treatment are minimal and compare very favorably with other migraine medications.
Potential Side Effects
The most common side effects of BOTOX are stiff muscles in the neck and upper back, with some bruising, swelling or pain at the injection sites. When the muscle is penetrated by the toxin it causes weakening of the tissue, and the surrounding muscles tighten to compensate for this. The pain lasts only a couple of days, after which it disappears.
Some other BOTOX side effects experienced by patients include:
- Small lumps or bumps on the forehead directly after the procedure
- Headaches and nausea, although these don’t compare with migraine symptoms
- Dry eyes
- Symptoms resembling flu
- Rashes on the skin
Use an ice-pack to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness, and if you have a migraine in progress when you have the injections you can continue to take your regular migraine medication. If you develop any side effects such as difficulty breathing or swallowing, uneven heart rate, drooping eyelids or other vision problems or pain in your chest and arms, contact your doctor without delay.
Costs and Insurance
The cost of BOTOX treatment ranges from $200 to several thousand dollars, depending on your requirements and the migraine doctor’s recommendations for you. Most commercial health insurances cover the cost in full, and regular BOTOX patients can apply for a savings card that will enable them to recoup up to $1200 per year on FDA-approved treatments.
BOTOX for migraine is an effective treatment that can help chronic sufferers reduce the number of headaches as well as the pain and other symptoms that accompany them, and improve their overall quality of life at an affordable cost.