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What Was Botox Originally Used For

What Was Botox Originally Used For? A Historical Overview

Botox comes from the botulinum toxin and was first made for medical treatments. It started in 1897 when some Belgian musicians got sick from eating bad smoked ham. This led to finding the botulinum toxin.

During World War II, US scientists cleaned and isolated this toxin. In the 1970s, Dr. Alan Scott, an American eye doctor, looked into using it for eye problems like crossed eyes and blinking too much. His work was a big step in using Botox for medicine.

Key Takeaways

  • Botox was originally developed for therapeutic purposes to treat medical conditions, not for cosmetic use.
  • The botulinum toxin was first discovered in 1897 following a food poisoning incident, and it was later isolated and purified during World War II.
  • In the 1970s, Dr. Alan Scott began investigating the use of the botulinum toxin to treat eye muscle disorders, leading to the first medical applications of what would become Botox.
  • Botox received FDA approval in 1989 for the treatment of strabismus and blepharospasm, marking the beginning of its widespread therapeutic use.
  • The discovery of Botox’s cosmetic benefits was an accidental byproduct of its therapeutic applications, leading to its eventual approval for cosmetic use in 2002.

What Was Botox Originally Used For? 

Botox is well-known for smoothing wrinkles and fine lines, but it started with treating medical conditions. The toxin was found in 1897, and Dr. Alan Scott first used it in 1978 for medical purposes.

Strabismus and Blepharospasm Treatments

In 1989, the FDA approved Botox for eye muscle disorders like strabismus and blepharospasm. Ophthalmologists and oculoplastic surgeons were the first to use it for these issues.

They worked hard to find the right spots and amounts to inject, with some trial and error. They worried about complications like eyelid drooping, but Botox also helped with hemifacial spasm.


Botulinum Toxin FDA Approval


Strabismus (crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (eye twitching)


Cervical dystonia/Neck muscle spasm


Glabellar/frown line


Hyperhidrosis/excessive sweating


Chronic headache and migraines


Urinary incontinence (overactive bladder)


Crow’s feet/lateral canthal lines

Over time, Botox got approved for more conditions, like cervical dystonia and migraines. It’s now a key tool in ophthalmology and other fields.

The Discovery of Botulinum Toxin

The story of botulinum toxin, found in Botox, goes back to the late 1800s. In 1897, some Belgian musicians got sick from eating bad smoked ham. This led to the discovery of this strong toxin.

Professor Emile van Ermengem at the University of Ghent found and named the bacteria behind it, Clostridium botulinum.

Origins and Early Research

During World War II, American scientists looked deeper into the botulinum toxin. They saw its potential as a weapon. After the war, scientists started to see its use in medicine.

Dr. Alan Scott’s Pioneering Work

In the 1970s, Dr. Alan Scott, an eye doctor, started to use botulinum toxin for eye problems. He injected it into patients and saw it could relax muscles by stopping a chemical called acetylcholine. This was a big step towards using Botox for health and beauty.

“Dr. Scott’s pioneering work paved the way for the eventual therapeutic and cosmetic uses of Botox, revolutionizing the field of medicine and transforming the way we approach certain health conditions.”

Dr. Scott’s research was a key moment in the story of botulinum toxin. His work helped change how we treat eye muscle issues and has influenced medical science.

Initial Therapeutic Uses of Botox

Botox, also known as Oculinum, was first approved by the FDA in 1989 for treating eye muscle disorders. These disorders include strabismus (crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking). Ophthalmologists and oculoplastic surgeons were the first to use botulinum toxin for these issues.

Treatment for Eye Muscle Disorders

In 1980, Dr. Alan B. Scott started using botulinum toxin injections in extraocular muscles as an alternative to surgery for strabismus. This was a major breakthrough. It led to the use of Botox for treating blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm. A study in 1987 by Brin et al. looked into using botulinum toxin injections for treating focal dystonia and hemifacial spasm.

Expanding Applications in Medicine

As doctors learned more about Botox, they started to look into its use for other medical areas. In 1990, Snow et al. did a double-blind study on using botulinum toxin for treating spasticity. Later, research showed Botox could help with conditions like cervical dystonia, chronic migraines, and excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).

Today, Botox is approved for treating many medical issues. These include chronic migraines, cervical dystonia, blepharospasm, strabismus, hyperhidrosis, overactive bladder, and spasticity. 

Its use keeps growing, with studies looking into off-label uses in areas like pain management and mental health.

The Accidental Discovery of Cosmetic Benefits

Initially, Botox was made for treating eye muscle disorders. But doctors found it had cosmetic benefits too. In the 1990s, dermatologists Alastair Carruthers, MD, and Jean Carruthers, MD, noticed it could help with facial wrinkles like crow’s feet, frown lines, and glabellar lines. They saw patients with eye muscle issues also looked better after Botox injections.

This chance find led to more studies and Botox getting the green light for cosmetic use. It works by relaxing the muscles that cause facial wrinkles.

Botox has turned into a big deal, showing how we all want to look young and beautiful. Research on Botox keeps going, with new ways to use it coming up.

  • Botox helps smooth out facial wrinkles like crow’s feet, forehead lines, and neck bands.
  • It’s also used for brow lifts, fixing gummy smiles, and shaping the jawline.
  • But, Botox might cause bruising, swelling, or muscle weakness.

“Botox has become a cultural phenomenon symbolizing the modern pursuit of youth and beauty.”

Botox also helps with chronic migraines, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), and some muscular disorders. The FDA said yes to Botox in 2002 for frown lines.


Botox comes from the botulinum toxin and has a long history in both medicine and beauty. It was first found in food poisoning, then purified, and used by Dr. Alan Scott for eye issues like strabismus and blepharospasm.

Dermatologists Alastair and Jean Carruthers later found it helped with wrinkles, making it popular. The FDA’s okay for it has made it a go-to treatment.

Now, Botox is a top choice for beauty treatments, showing how a once feared toxin has evolved. It can reduce wrinkles by up to 31.9%, and works well for many medical issues, with a success rate of about 90%. Only about 1% of people have issues with Botox in dermatology.

Botox is now a top choice for both beauty and health, tackling fine lines and medical conditions. With ongoing research, Botox’s future looks bright, offering safe and effective solutions for many needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What medical conditions was Botox originally developed to treat?

Botox was originally developed to treat medical conditions such as strabismus (crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking). It received FDA approval for these uses in 1989, marking its first therapeutic applications before becoming popular for cosmetic treatments.

How was the botulinum toxin first discovered?

The botulinum toxin was first discovered in 1897 after Belgian musicians fell ill from eating contaminated smoked ham. Professor Emile van Ermengem identified the toxin-producing bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, leading to its isolation and later medical applications.

Who was Dr. Alan Scott and what was his role in the development of Botox?

Dr. Alan Scott was an American ophthalmologist who pioneered the use of botulinum toxin for medical purposes. In the 1970s, he researched its potential to treat eye muscle disorders, leading to its FDA approval for these conditions in 1989.

When did the FDA first approve Botox for medical use, and what conditions were treated?

The FDA first approved Botox for medical use in 1989. It was approved to treat strabismus (crossed eyes) and blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking).

How did Botox transition from a therapeutic to a cosmetic treatment?

Dermatologists Alastair and Jean Carruthers noticed Botox’s cosmetic benefits in the 1990s while treating patients for eye muscle issues. Their findings led to studies confirming its effectiveness in reducing facial wrinkles, eventually gaining FDA approval for cosmetic use in 2002.

Source Links

  1. – The History of Botulinum Toxins in Medicine: A Thousand Year Journey – PubMed
  2. – Overview, History, Mechanism of Action
  3. – History of Botulinum Toxin Treatment in Movement Disorders
  4. – Early development history of Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA)
  5. – Botulinum Toxin – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
  6. – The Story Behind BOTOX® Cosmetic | BOTOX® Cosmetic
  7. – AbobotulinumtoxinA: A 25-Year History
  8. – BOTOX® (onabotulinumtoxinA) Celebrates 30 Years of Endless Innovation
  9. – BOTOX® Cosmetic (onabotulinumtoxinA) Celebrates 20 Years Since First U.S. FDA Approval.
  11. – Botulinum toxin (Botox) A for reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles: a literature review of clinical use and pharmacological aspect

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