Dermal Fillers – What are they and how do they work?

A dermal filler is a neurotoxin produced by the same bacterium that causes the form of food poisoning known as Botulism. While related, there is no chance of contracting botulism from the purified protein. It attaches itself to nerve endings, blocking the neurotransmitter that triggers muscle contractions, effectively causing paralysis. If it were to enter an area like the chest, the toxin could impair breathing and have negative effects. However, when injected in a medical setting, skilled doctors are able to inject it into a specific muscle and keep it from spreading to other parts of the body. Injections have been approved since 1989 for used in treating a variety of medical conditions involving involuntary muscle contractions known as spasms. Additional uses under investigation include treatment of excessive sweating and writer’s cramp.

Of course, since 2002 dermal fillers have been most well known for their use in cosmetic surgery where it is injected into areas like the forehead. This result was actually discovered as a side-effect of treatment for eye-muscle disorders. The injections softened the glabellar lines between the eyes that tend to make people look tired, angry or disgruntled.

The injections are popular for being a quick, painless procedure which requires no recovery. Patients can immediately return to work or other responsibilities. Even so, those considering injections should keep in mind that it is a medical procedure and should be performed in a medical setting that is equipped to handle an emergency situation. The FDA still requires that medical manufacturers warn patients of the risk of toxins spreading from a local injection site. However, no serious adverse results have been reported associated with dermatological use of dermal fillers. More common side effects include temporary pain and redness, muscle weakness, headaches and nausea.

Cosmetically, dermal fillers injection is effective in these very specific areas including frown lines between the eyes and on the forehead, crow’s feet at the corners of the eyes and skin bands on the neck. They are not recommended, or FDA approved, for use around the mouth in order to avoid negative effects on the muscles used for talking and eating. The injections will not be effective on wrinkles caused by sun-damage, gravity grown jowls or other wrinkles that have been etched permanently over the years. With the results of the injections lasting only about four months, the time required and expenses can add up quickly.

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