I've Heard Botox is Botulism So How Many Units Would It Take Before It Could Cause Me Harm?

I've Heard Botox is Botulism So How Many Units Would It Take Before It Could Cause Me Harm, Paralysis, or Could it Possibly Cause Death?

Doctor Answers 8

Botox is Botulinum Toxin, not Botulism

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Botox, or onabotulinum toxin type A, is produced by botulinum bacteria.  A similar toxin, when consumed orally, can cause botulism which leads to diffuse paralysis and usually kills by inhibiting breathing. When Botox was being developed for human medical use as a treatment for facial spasm, it was tested on a particular European mouse strain.  They gave it in small amounts to the mouse until they found a dose that was fatal to half the mice.  This dose is the basis for a "unit" of Botox. A fatal dose in humans would be dramatically larger and would have to be given in such a way that it reached the lungs or heart.  In cosmetic use, at the small doses we give and in the facial locations, this is very unlikely to occur, though not impossible.  Breathing problems have been reported in patients receiving Botox injected into the neck for torticollis, but these injections are of much higher doses and are placed near major blood vessels. 

Salt Lake City Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Botox and harm

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Botox is very safe for cosmetic treatment. Neurological diseases, not cosmetic, are often treated with 10 times the amount that is used in average cosmetic treatments, without ill-effect for the large percent of those treated. Dangerous doses of Botox Cosmetic would require such a large number of vials (much more than of Botox (100 Units per vial) that it is unheard of that such a volume would be used. It has occurred, though, that a physician had used a non-Allergan source, and had ordered botox from a laboratory. Serious consequences were a result of this concentrated form that was of a much higher amount of units per volume than is found in Allergan's Botox Cosmetic.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Botulism should not be confused with BOTOX.

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Botox is a highly purified protein derived from the bacteria that causes botulism.  Botox is a very precisely controlled product and the doses used are minute.  The FDA has found no risk of life threatening side-effects with the dosages of BOTOX used for cosmetic services.  Higher doses of BOTOX used for certain medical indications can be associated with side-effects.  Typically these are seen in doses in the 300 unit range which is 10 times the dose used for cosmetic concerns.

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Botox is Botulism the same way Penicillin is Mold

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When something is derived from something it doesn't mean it's the same thing! Botox is onabotulinum toxin type A which is produced by a bacteria. Similarly, penicillin is Penicillium chrysogenum which is produced by a mold or fungus. This doesn't mean it is mold or fungus though! The amount of Botox that you would need to harm, paralyze, or cause death would be vials and vials and vials and vials at one time, and most likely, you'd need to be swallowing it to cause any of this!

Botox side effects

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Botox is extremely safe when performed by an MD with adequate training and experience. It would take multiple vials for paralysis or serious complications. Most cosmetic applications don't use more than one vial.

Botox units, how much to harm someone?

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The amount of Botox that is typically placed in the muscles should not harm you.  Botox should be placed by a well trained and experiences injector.  This will be a good way to avoid any untoward effects.

Jeffrey J. Roth, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

I've Heard Botox is Botulism So How Many Units Would It Take Before It Could Cause Me Harm?

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 Botox is a medical grade toxin that's injected at very diluted states delivering minute amounts of the toxin.  It's been proven very safe at the doses used for aesthetic treatments.

Francis R. Palmer, III, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Can cosmetic Botox cause harm?

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There has never been any adverse Botulism effects reported from the cosmetic use of Botox. Botox given in the quantity used for cosmetic applications is very minute, Botox is used for various medical applications and there have been some reported side effects such as breathing difficulty and muscle weakness, these are usually doses that are 10 times the amount of the comsetic applications.  

Jonathan Weiler, MD
Baton Rouge Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.