Is Botox Safe for Autoimmune Diseases?

If you've been diagnosed, ask: is Botox safe for my autoimmune disease?

For years I’ve been anti-injectable because the idea of putting Botulinum Toxin or other materials in my body seemed freaky. But now that I’m in my mid-thirties, and have seen the positive results on so many of my friends’ foreheads, I find myself looking in the mirror and wondering if a little wrinkle reversing and prevention is in order.

For those who are unfamiliar with the way Botox works- it freezes the muscle so that our body doesn’t repeatedly wrinkle the skin. This helps to smooth and relax our fine lines. The prevention happens as a result of the injection blocking the nerve signals that crinkled the skin in the first place. By taking a break from the furrow of the brow, further lines aren’t created. For a short time, at least.

Yet, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, and as a person living with a diagnosed autoimmune disease, I’m extra cautious about everything I put in or on my body.

In the case of autoimmune diseases, the immune cells attack parts of the body, because they mistake them for foreign matter. So I was curious, could injecting a foreign substance, such as Botox, create a flair up in patients like me?

I consulted with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn, who counseled:

As with any injectable, Botox should be used with caution in people with auto-immune conditions. Although it should not interfere with the majority of autoimmune conditions, patients should consult with their physician if they are considering any treatment such as this. The conditions in general, in which Botox should not be used include Myasthenia Gravis, ALS, and other conditions that affect the nervous system.

While he didn’t single out MS, as he did Myasthenia Gravis and ALS, multiple sclerosis is defined by the vulnerability of the nervous system to the body’s overactive immune system.

To go a bit further, I wanted to know if specific trials been run, or if Botox’s parent company Allergan has precautions specifically for autoimmune-diagnosed patients.

Allergan advised that they had “not conducted clinical trials to determine the efficacy and safety of treatment with BOTOX Cosmetic in these patient populations.”

They stress that patients must notify their doctors of all medical conditions and medications (including vitamins) that they are currently taking, especially in the case of already-diagnosed nerve issues, because we are at higher risk for serious side effects.

From reading more of the company’s cautionary language, one section caught my attention. It specified that there are multiple brands of botulinum toxin, and different companies have different mixtures of this material.

So even if a patient has received an injectable at any time in the past without negative side effects, it is imperative to understand that a different cocktail could have a different effect, and to always alert the certified physician administering Botox of the specifics of what you’ve received before.

After researching this health information, I am reminded of the caution most of us received during adolescence: just because our friends are trying something, doesn’t mean that it’s right for us. (Or as my parents said it, just because everyone else is jumping off a bridge, doesn’t mean that I should too.)

So just because everyone has smooth foreheads doesn’t give me enough reason to jump on the Botox train.

Caring for our body is never something to skimp on. And just because one treatment is out of the picture, doesn’t mean that I’m relegated to a life of wrinkles. That’s what chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and good ole Retinol are for!

This post is presented to the Girl Around Town audience in partnership with
Smart Beauty Guide and The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.


Posted on May 26, 2015 and filed under Beauty.