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Botox approved to treat migraines in Canada

Colleen Delsack, 47, of Alexandria, Va., is injected with Botox injected by Shannon Ginnan, at Reveal in Arlington, Va., on Friday, June 5, 2009.

Jacquelyn Martin/Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Frown if you get migraines.

Now smile. Botox has been approved in Canada as a preventative treatment for debilitating headaches, according to drug manufacturer Allergan.

Health Canada has given doctors the green light to use Botox injections in adults who suffer from migraines 15 or more days a month.

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Just think of all that wrinkle-free skin, doctor's orders.

But no faking a headache, now.

Botox for chronic migraine is a serious matter (unlike Hollywood's "frozen face" fashion statement).

The treatment involves injecting up to 195 units of Botulinum toxin A into seven muscles in the head and neck. Injections must be repeated about every three months to keep migraines at bay.

In 2009, Health Canada announced new labelling information for Botox, warning that the neurotoxin used in the product may spread to distant parts of the body.

Nevertheless, plenty of chronic migraine sufferers may be willing to go under the needle.

According to the World Health Organization, living with daily migraines can be more disabling than blindness, paraplegia or rheumatoid arthritis.

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Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from chronic migraine, which may worsen with stress, poor diet and sleep habits, and overuse of pain medication recommended for headaches.

In two clinical trials funded by Allergan, patients who received Botox reported a total cumulative reduction in headache hours by 107 and 134 hours at 24 weeks, compared with 70 and 95 hours in patients treated with placebo.

But, as with many medical treatments, there was a catch. Side effects included droopy eyes, muscle pain, bronchitis – and migraines.

Would you use Botox for migraines? How about wrinkles?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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