Neurotoxin Treatments: Short-Term Results Vs. Long-Term Effects

Updated on October 24, 2023

People had known about the botulinum toxin for years, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that American ophthalmologist Alan Scott used the toxin’s paralysis effect to treat a patient. He had been exploring the toxin’s potential for treating eye conditions, and in 1978, he and his colleagues found a technique to inject the toxin into the eye muscles.

Working with a deadly toxin may sound dangerous, but the toxin they used was a drug manufactured for medical purposes. But the drug’s origin is indeed from bacteria associated with botulism.

The discovery of the toxin’s therapeutic potential led to the development of a new class of drugs called neuromodulators. Dr Scott’s efforts were finally recognized when the FDA approved botulinum toxin as safe to use as a treatment for strabismus and cosmetic concerns. It took years, but he found a way to turn a harmful toxin into a cure for eye diseases.  

An overview of neurotoxin treatments

Decades later, neurotoxin treatments, like Botox, have become popular for treating various cosmetic and medical concerns. In 2020, there were about 4.4 million Botox treatments in the United States alone.  

Neurotoxin treatments are injections of a purified neurotoxin, such as botulinum toxin type A, into the muscles. Botulinum toxin blocks the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is responsible for muscle contraction. This causes the muscles to relax and smooth out wrinkles.

And therein lies the attraction to these treatments—besides the near-instantaneous results that seem miraculous. However, the short-term benefits of these treatments are just one side of the coin; the long-term effects can be equally significant and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Other uses of neurotoxins

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Although neurotoxins’ popularity today is more on their cosmetic use, they’re also used extensively in the medical fields and scientific research.

Here are some common uses of neurotoxin treatments in the two fields.

1. Medical

Besides aesthetics, neurotoxin treatments also have valuable applications in the medical field, contributing to the following:

  • Muscle spasm relief: Neurotoxins are also used to ease painful muscle spasms, particularly those resulting in conditions like cerebral palsy.
  • Migraine management: Individuals who suffer from chronic migraines can benefit from the reduction of muscle tension provided by neurotoxin treatments, which can help lessen the intensity and frequency of headaches.
  • Neuropathic pain: In some cases, neurotoxin treatments can relieve neuropathic pain by improving nerve function.

2. Scientific research

Neurotoxins are also a valuable tool for scientific research, helping scientists in investigating the mysteries of the nervous system. They’re used in the following:

Study of nerve function: It helps scientists to study the mechanisms of nerve signal transmission and muscle movement control.

Drug development: Researchers use neurotoxins to screen potential medications for neurological disorders.

Botany and zoology: The study of venomous creatures, such as snakes and spiders, involves examining their neurotoxins for scientific curiosity and potential applications.

These various applications demonstrate the significance of neurotoxin treatment across multiple domains, ranging from enhancing beauty and well-being to advancing scientific knowledge and medical breakthroughs.

Short-term results of neurotoxin treatment

Neurotoxin treatments are highly sought after, which isn’t surprising. After all, they provide a range of benefits that are immediately apparent.

Below are examples of neurotoxin treatment’s short-term results:

  • Wrinkle reduction: Neurotoxins, like Botox, are commonly used to smooth out wrinkles, fine lines, and crow’s feet.
  • Facial symmetry: This treatment can also fix the muscle imbalance that causes facial asymmetry. By targeting specific muscles, Botox can relax facial expressions, contributing to asymmetry. Sagging cheeks are also fixed, and the jawline is realigned.
  • Hyperhidrosis control: Certain neurotoxin treatments, such as Botox and Dysport, can block the signals that stimulate sweat glands, treating hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Injecting small amounts of neurotoxin into the affected areas blocks the nerves that trigger sweating, significantly decreasing sweat production. This treatment is also very effective for axillary (underarm) hyperhidrosis but can also be used for palmar (hand) and plantar (foot) hyperhidrosis.

Of course, the timeline for experiencing these short-term results may vary slightly from person to person. Most patients can expect noticeable changes within three to seven days post-treatment.

Several factors influence the duration of these short-term results:

  • Dosage: Higher dosages often result in longer-lasting effects.
  • Injection site (such as crow’s feet or forehead lines): More frequent and robust muscle activity may experience a quicker return of movement than less active areas.
  • Individual metabolism: Those with faster metabolisms may experience slightly shorter durations of the treatment’s effects.

If you’re thinking about getting one of these treatments, it’s better to be aware of these factors. That way, you’ll know what to expect and what not to expect.

Long-term effects of neurotoxin treatment

Neurotoxin treatments can offer more than just temporary relief. By reducing muscle activity, they can lead to lasting positive changes.

Here are some of the most common long-term results of neurotoxin treatments:

  • Reduced muscle wasting: Neurotoxin treatments can help preserve muscle mass and prevent atrophy by reducing muscle contractions.
  • Improved nerve function: The relaxation of overactive muscles can improve nerve function and reduce neuropathic pain.
  • Reduced pain: For some medical conditions, such as chronic migraines or muscle spasms, neurotoxin treatments can provide long-lasting pain relief.

The timeline for experiencing these long-term effects varies from person to person, but they typically become more noticeable after several sessions. For some, the benefits may become increasingly apparent over several months.

The duration of long-term effects depends on factors like the following:

  • frequency of treatment
  • overall health
  • lifestyle

Individuals who receive regular treatments may experience prolonged benefits, while those with a healthy lifestyle can further enhance the longevity of these effects.

But there’s a caveat: it’s important to note that there have been cases where repeated Botox use caused more serious side effects. For example, it may lead to an individual developing muscle atrophy. The body can also develop antibodies to the toxin. When this happens, Botox treatment can be less effective.

However, cases like these are rare. Most people who receive neurotoxin treatment suffer no long-term negative side effects. And while that may be true, it’s still advisable to consult a licensed and qualified medical professional and discuss potential risks before deciding.

Comparison of short-term results and long-term effects of neurotoxin treatments

Both short-term results and long-term effects of neurotoxin treatments are influenced by muscle relaxation. Short-term results are attributed to the direct blockade of acetylcholine release, while long-term effects may be due to changes in muscle fiber structure and function.

One notable distinction is the duration of these effects. Short-term results typically last three to four months, whereas long-term effects can persist for years. This is because the muscles adapt to the reduced acetylcholine release, causing them to become smaller and weaker.

How short-term results can lead to long-term effects

Short-term results can contribute to long-term effects by preventing new wrinkle formation and reducing the appearance of existing wrinkles. Relaxed muscles are less likely to contract, minimizing the formation of wrinkles. Additionally, muscle relaxation can help smooth out existing wrinkles.

Importance of regular treatment to maintain long-term effects

To maintain the long-term effects, regular treatment is crucial. Over time, muscle fibers adapt to the absence of acetylcholine release and become weaker, leading to the reappearance of wrinkles. By undergoing consistent treatment, individuals can sustain the desired long-term results.


Neurotoxin treatments started as a cure for eye conditions; years later, they’re now a popular treatment for cosmetic purposes. But it is not just cosmetics—it’s also used in medical and scientific research. The treatment’s short-term results and long-term results are affected by several factors. By knowing them, you can adjust your expectations accordingly.

It’s important to note that while most people experience no long-term negative side effects, there have been rare cases of muscle atrophy or antibodies to the toxin developing with repeated use. Remember to consult a licensed and qualified medical professional who can discuss potential risks and individual needs and goals before deciding anything.