Having BOTOX® treatments is becoming widely accepted for migraine sufferers, and for many people, it has made a world of difference to the frequency and severity of their migraine attacks. Few patients experience side effects, but for those who do, it’s possible to prevent some of the side effects if you take the right steps. Each BOTOX® treatment consists of an average of 32 injections, although some patients require fewer than this, while others need more. Depending on your symptoms, the injections are administered into your forehead, temples, the back and sides of your neck, the upper shoulders, or the back of your head.
The Most Common Side Effects of BOTOX® Treatment
The immediate side effects of BOTOX® treatment include a small, pea-sized bump at the site of each injection. This is caused by bruising to the blood vessels or an allergic reaction to the saline used in the injections. The bumps usually disappear after a few hours, as the fluid from the injection is absorbed into the system, but in some instances, they can last several days or weeks. If you scratch these, there is a possibility they can become infected and turn into small lesions. This may not be important if it occurs in a place like the back of your head, but it can be an inconvenience if it occurs on the forehead.
Some patients find BOTOX® treatment triggers a migraine attack, which means having to deal with headache pain right after the procedure.
Other side effects that take longer to develop include:
- A feeling of weakness in the muscles where the injections were administered
- Bruising, swelling or bleeding of the injection sites
- Skin rash
- Headache pain
- Feelings of drowsiness or dizziness
- Symptoms that resemble a cold or flu, such as a sore throat and runny nose
- Mouth and nose dryness
- Eyes that feel dry and scratchy, or have an unusual discharge
Most of these symptoms will dissipate over a couple of days, but if you start to develop any more serious side effects, you should seek medical attention immediately. These include:
- Breathing or swallowing difficulties
- Swollen eyes, or uncommon eye discharge
- A sore throat and hoarseness, or persistent, flu-like symptoms
- Pain in your chest
- Loss of bladder control
- A sensation of weakness in the muscles, particularly those that are further away from the injection site.
If you develop any of these signs, it could be an indication of botulism poisoning, which is very rare but can be fatal if it is not treated.
Advance Preparation for BOTOX® Treatment
You can be prepared ahead of time for your BOTOX® treatment, by taking a few necessary steps.
- Allow only reputable, qualified migraine practitioners to administer your injections. Never accept BOTOX® from a cosmetic practitioner or at any kind of non-medical gathering. Even a registered cosmetologist who is qualified to administer BOTOX® for cosmetic purposes is not trained or experienced in administering BOTOX® for migraines.
- Always make sure you receive the BOTOX® treatments in a medical environment. That way, if you develop severe side effects immediately afterward, you can get the medical care you need on site.
- Provide your migraine doctor with a full medical history. It’s important to tell him or her everything about your previous surgeries and hospitalizations.
- Present the doctor with a list containing full details and dosages of all medications you’re taking. This includes homeopathic and natural health products, because often these may interact badly with the BOTOX® and cause complications.
- Find out whether you need to stop taking any particular medications before your migraine treatment. Some of the products you might have to eliminate from your daily regime include:
- Pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
- Antibiotics. If you are taking these to treat an infection, your doctor will likely advise you to wait until the course is completed before having the BOTOX® injections.
- Drugs for treating heart conditions.
- Medications for Alzheimer’s or other neurological diseases.
- Certain vitamin and mineral supplements.
- Pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
- Plan to stop taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) for at least four days before your BOTOX® migraine treatment. These commonly include heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and apixaban (Eliquis), although several other name brands also exist. This is because anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs can cause bleeding during and after the treatment, as a result of their blood-clotting actions.
- Stop drinking alcohol for at least two days before the procedure. The presence of alcohol in your system can encourage bruising and bleeding to occur.
Avoid having BOTOX® treatment if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a history of neuromuscular diseases, underlying heart conditions or blood disorders, or have previously had indications of a BOTOX® allergy.
Reduce Any Side Effects on the Day of Your BOTOX® Treatment
- Bring your preferred type of over-the-counter NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen) with you on the day of your BOTOX® treatment. These will help to reduce your body’s production of prostaglandin, which is the hormone that causes pain and inflammation.
- Carry a frozen ice pack with you in a small cooler, to prevent it from thawing. Wrap it in a cloth or towel to avoid direct contact with the skin, and use it immediately after receiving your injections to prevent bruises from developing. This will not only reduce pain and inflammation, but it also constricts the blood vessels to lower your risk of bleeding.
- Avoid taking part in non-essential physical activities for the 24 hours immediately following the treatment, because moving around more than necessary can make the toxin spread to other areas of your body, causing adverse side effects. Take it easy, get plenty of rest, and restrict your activity to a minimum.
Prevent Complications Over the Long Term
Some mild pain, slight inflammation and bruising, bleeding or drooping eyelids are quite common and normal in the first couple of weeks after a BOTOX® treatment procedure. The best way to avoid complications in the long term, however, is to keep a close eye out for any of the more concerning side effects. Should you develop any of these signs, contact either your migraine doctor or your family physician and request an urgent appointment. If the symptoms persist and you’re unable to see someone right away, consider going to the ER.
Using BOTOX® as a migraine treatment holds tremendous promise for a large number of migraineurs, but it isn’t a guaranteed cure and it doesn’t work for everyone. For those who benefit from this option, you can expect to see the effect after approximately two weeks. On average, each treatment lasts between three and six months, after which you may need to repeat the process. Results improve with each subsequent treatment, but patients who get the most benefit typically receive five treatments over a period of 15 months.
Find out today whether BOTOX® treatment is an option for your migraines.