What Is Botulism? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

This paralytic illness is caused by the same nerve toxins used in Botox injections.

Botulism is a rare, paralyzing disease caused by nerve toxins from some of the spores that cause Clostridium bacteria, which are found in soil and untreated water.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria are usually the cause of this serious, life-threatening disease, but C. batterchem and C. barati also sometimes cause botulism.

Types of Botulism

According to the CDC, there are five types of botulism. These include:

Foodborne botulism, caused by the consumption of food contaminated with botulinum toxin.
Wound botulism, which develops if C. botulinum enters the open wound and releases toxins
Neonatal botulism, usually after eating contaminated honey or corn syrup, occurs after eating bacterial spores.
Adult tachycardia botulism, which also develops from the use of eggs
Aetrogenic botulism, accidental overdose of botulinum toxin (such as by Botox injection)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 145 cases of botulism are reported each year in the United States.

Infant botulism is the most common type, accounting for about 65% of cases, followed by foodborne and wound botulism of about 20-15% and 20%, respectively.

Adult tachycardia botulism and estrogenic botulism are rare.

Signs and Symptoms of Botulism

Botulinum toxin causes massive muscle paralysis.

In children and adults, this can result in:

Blurred vision and double vision
Take off your eyelids
Blurred speech and difficulty swallowing
Dry mouth
Muscular weakness
Stomach pain
Nausea and vomiting
Foodborne botulism usually produces these symptoms 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, although symptoms can appear anytime between 6 hours and 10 days after ingestion.

Symptoms of vegetation in infants include:

Poor feeding
Cheapness and weakness
Weak cry
Weak muscle head and head control
Poor foam and sucking reflection
If left untreated, botulism can lead to paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk and respiratory muscles, which can eventually lead to death due to respiratory failure.

Treatment and Medication Options for Botulism

A drug called botulinum antitoxin is used to fight paralytic toxins circulating in the body.

If antitoxin is given before a stroke, it can prevent bad symptoms and shorten a person’s recovery time.

People with severe botulism who suffer from paralysis and respiratory failure need to be put on a ventilator for weeks or months.

Until that paralysis improves – a slow process, they also need intensive medical and nursing care.

To speed up recovery from food-borne plants, doctors may prescribe vomiting or defecation (with enema) to remove contaminated food from the intestines.

Similarly, treating infected wounds – usually through surgery and antibiotics – can help people recover from wound botulism.


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