Botox (Botulinum toxin A) injections have been seen to improve tremors in hands and arms of the patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis in a new research study. The findings of the study have been reported in Neurology.

 Botox is extensively used in minimally invasive cosmetic procedures to treat wrinkles by injections and has gained very high popularity. In addition, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly approved its use in treating crossed eyes, muscle spasms, excessive sweating, migraine headaches and loss of bladder control due to neurologic conditions such as spinal cord injury and Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS). is an autoimmune disease due to which body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and the spinal cord which form the central nervous system. The attack primarily destroys myelin the protective sheath that protects the nerve fibers.

Nearly 2.5 million people worldwide and 400,000 people in USA suffer from MS. It is not yet clear what causes the disease but it appears that genetics, an individual’s environment and even a virus may have roles to play in it. The disease has no known cure, but is not normally life threatening. Managing the disease and controlling its debilitating effects are the best treatment options at present.

There are several symptoms of MS such as numbness, loss of balance, weakness of limbs, disturbance in or loss of vision. The patients are known to suffer from tremors in various degrees, sometimes severe.

There has not been any effective treatment which is able to control tremors well, though deep brain stimulation technique has been used on MS patients for this purpose.

In the research study, 23 persons with MS were given Botox injections or inactive injections in their affected arms. After three months the persons involved received the opposite injections to what they received at the first instance. The researchers measured the tremor severity in the patients and their ability to write and draw before and after the injections. The patients were video-graphed while doing their tasks.

It was found that the patients showed improvement in tremor severity, writing and drawing at six weeks and three months after the Botox shots.

Tremor severity improved by about two points on a 10-point scale, which took a tremor from the moderate range to a milder one. Participants improved by an average of one point on a 10-point scale in writing and drawing tasks.

Muscle weakness developed in 42% of people after Botox injections, compared to 6% of those who received the inactive shot. This weakness was generally mild and went away within two weeks.

The tremors have so far been managed with physical or occupational therapy, use of adaptive devices, braces and weights, sometimes medications. The treatment with Botox injection appears to be a more promising option which, however, needs to be confirmed by further research.

The incidence of muscle weakness in patients receiving Botox shots is also to be investigated further regarding its mildness and fading away in about two weeks.

Some of the doctors dealing with MS patients may be interested to try out the Botox treatment. One of them is Gayatri Devi, MD, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in N.Y who has used Botox in treating MS patients with overactive bladders. She is not too much concerned with the reported side effect of muscle weakness of the treatment and says “the tremor is so disabling and crippling that it’s a little bit of trade-off.”

In the end it is the question “how  to improve a patient’s quality of life?”  Botox treatment appears to have the potential to deliver that improvement in this particular case.

[Source: This write up is sourced from the article “Botox May Ease Multiple Sclerosis Tremors” By Denise Mann dated July 03, 2012 WebMD Health News]