Does Botox for migraines help?

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Does Botox for migraines help?

In case you haven’t heard and you happen to suffer from migraines, back in 2010 Botox was approved by the FDA as a way to treat these debilitating headaches often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.  Known for its ability to smooth wrinkles on the face, Botox injections have also been shown to be effective in the treatment of treating migraines.

It is estimated that up to 12% of Americans experience the throbbing pain or intense pulsing of a migraine which are one of the most disabling from of a headache.  The average migraine sufferer will experience a headache more than 14 days of the month greatly affecting their family, work and social life.  Since the time of the FDA’s approval, Botox has been a new option to help reduce the number of days and hours spent in pain as a result of migraine headaches. 

How does Botox help migraines?

Botox is botulinum toxin type A and is a neurotoxin that has been used for more than 20 years for treating wrinkles.  When Botox is injected it interrupts the signal transmission by the nerve cells to the muscles.  In the process, it produces muscle fiber paralysis by disrupting the normal function of the neuromuscular junction.  It also blocks the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter from the nerve cells which inhibits muscle contractility leading to paralysis of the muscle. 

Botox used to treat migraines is given at intervals of about 12 weeks as multiple injections around the head and neck to try to dull future headache symptoms. 

What studies have been done showing Botox can help?

There were two studies that made the FDA approve Botox as a possible treatment for migraines – PREEMPT 1 and PREEMPT 2.  These studies involving 1,384 adults in North America and Europe, demonstrated that patients treated with Botox experienced a major decrease in the frequency of headache days. 

Are there any potential downsides in using Botox for migraines?

One downside is the cost of Botox as it is relatively expensive.  Generally in comparison when used cosmetically, Botox used for migraines requires larger amounts for optimal migraine prevention.

The most common adverse side effect reported by patients has been neck pain and headache.  Botox may also cause muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision, dropping eyelids, loss of bladder control, and hoarseness.  The label also includes a “boxed warning” regarding the potential spread of the medication beyond the site of injection. 

Determining if Botox is right for you

The use of Botox for controlling migraine headaches is not for everyone.  However, it can be a valuable tool when used in the appropriate setting and after you have thoroughly discussed with your doctor if Botox is for you.  Possible candidates for Botox for migraines include:

·      Those who suffer with migraines more than 15 days a month.

·      Those who have had difficulty tolerating several preventive medications such as Beta blockers, Calcium Chanel blockers or Topiramate.

·      Those who prefer the convenience of simply coming in for Botox every three months rather than taking a daily preventative medication.