What is Argyria?
Argyria is a disorder that affects your skin ad mucus membrane. This condition is triggered when a person is exposed to or takes in silver through medicines or supplements. Argyria is marked with a bluish-gray color of your skin and mucus membrane. 6
Fig: A patient with argyria
Argyria can be classified into the following forms:
With generalized argyria, it can affect almost the whole of your body. This form of argyria starts in your mucus membrane, especially in the gums. It causes your gums to become brown or gray in color. It can then spread and affect your skin, fingernails and the entire body.
This type of argyria affects small area of your body. Localized argyria affects your mucus membrane as a result of long term use of salt solution. It can also occur in your ears and any other part of the body where silver piercing jewelry is inserted.
Argyria is triggered when a person is exposed to silver and its compounds. This condition is rare and it depends on the amount of silver in the body of a person. People with little exposure to silver and its compounds develop localized argyria while excess exposure affects almost your entire body (generalized exposure).
The following are factors that make you develop argyria:
Work related exposure
The place where some people work can expose them to silver and its compounds. People working in mining, silver refining, metal alloys, photographic processing and manufacture of silver are much exposed to silver. They can inhale silver and its compounds which may cause generalized or localized argyria.
Medicines containing silver salts
People who use silver salt solution to treat nasal blockage and eye problem for a prolonged time can lead to this condition. Also those people who use silver acetate for longer periods can develop this disorder.
Silver dietary supplements such as colloidal are effective in curing diabetes, herpetic infections and arthritis. But when you ingest too much of these supplements for a long period, you can develop argyria.
People with teeth problems may undergo a treatment known as dental amalgam. Dental amalgam is also called silver colored fillings. It is a dental procedure that combines metals such as copper, tin, silver and mercury to fill a dental cavity. Excessive use of these metals for people with dental problems may lead to this disorder.
Silver sutures in surgery
Silver sutures used to heal wounds after surgery may also be a potential cause of this condition.
The main symptom of argyria is that particular areas of a patient’s body become blue or blue-gray in color. The gums of those affected by this disorder are stained with blue-gray spots. In some cases, this condition may spread and affect areas exposed to sun such as your forehead.
The start of these symptoms depends on the amount of silver in the body. Normally, your body has about 1 mg of silver. When silver in your body reaches 4 mg, signs and symptoms of this disorder may begin to manifest. However in some people, symptoms may only develop when silver in the body is 20-40 gm.
Diagnosis of argyria is done by physically examining the skin. Your doctor uses fluorescent x-ray to observe the color of your skin as well as ask you of your medical history. Argyria is characterized with bluish skin which can be easily identified under the fluorescent to help confirm diagnosis of this disorder.
Your doctor can perform skin biopsy to find out whether silver has accumulated below your affected skin areas. In addition your doctor conducts several tests to determine the amount of silver in your body.
Diagnosis should also involve performing tests to ensure that the symptoms exhibited are those of argyria and not of other related conditions such as:
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Addison’s disease
Currently there are limited options for treating argyria. In some severe cases of long term intake of silver, this disorder may be irreversible. The treatment aims at limiting exposure of patients to silver to stop the disorder from progressing.
However, argyria is sometimes treated with topical hydroquinone ointment to minimize blue coloration on the patient skin. Also doctors are suggesting use of sunscreens to help prevent spread of blue coloration to other parts of the patient’s body.
Moreover, research is still going to determine the effectiveness of laser treatment in treating skin discoloration. Medical reports have shown that Laser surgery is effective in treating dietary silver supplements.
Excessive exposure to silver and its compounds even after a person has developed argyria may lead to the following life threatening complications:
Silver and its compounds can accumulate in your blood vessels. This may lead to bursting and bleeding in these blood vessels.This bleeding can occur in your brain where the arteries in brain burst and bleed leading to brain hemorrhage, a type of stoke condition.
This is a condition where protein called albumin is found in your urine instead of blood. This occurs when silver supplements such as colloidal attaches to albumin in your body. As a result your kidney may fail to filter your blood because it is damaged leading to presence of albumin in the urine.
Presence of protein in your urine may indicate a kidney disease. Therefore your doctor may conduct urine analysis to confirm whether you have kidney disease or not.
Patients can minimize blue skin coloration by observing the following preventive measures:
- Stop intake of treatments that has silver.
- Put on suitable clothing when you work in silver mining, silver manufacturing industries, photographic processing and metal alloys.
- Use sunscreens to prevent more discoloration of your skin.
- For those who use colloidal silver supplements, avoid homemade silver and consume high quality colloidal. Also ensure that you do not eat more than 0.005 mg of colloidal silver supplements. You can research more on colloidal silver supplements but consume those supplements without additives and stabilizers.
- Albuminuria. Available at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/albuminuria
- Argyria. Available at http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-is-argyria/
- Dental amalgam. Available at http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/fillings-silver-colored
- Hemorrhage. Available at http://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-hemorrhage-bleeding-causes-symptoms-treatments#1