Three Possible Treatment Options For Argyria

Silver is frequently marketed as a cure for a variety of diseases in the alternative medicine community, despite the lack of evidence it's actually effective. Conversely, there's plenty of evidence suggesting that prolonged exposure to silver causes argyria, a rare skin condition characterized by the skin turning blue. Here's more information about this disease and possible options for treating it.

The Cause of Argyria

Argyria is caused by contact with or ingestion of silver for extended periods of time. While some people do contract this skin disorder from using skin products containing silver or being around silver dust such as in mines, a good number of cases of this skin disease result from people ingesting colloidal silver.

There are two forms of argyria: localized and general. Localized argyria appears as spots on the body and is usually due to the use of silver-containing products in that area. For instance, using eye drops containing silver may cause the sclera to turn blue (ocular argyria).

When the entire body turns a shade of blue, it is called general argyria. This condition usually onsets gradually and starts as grey-brown stains on the gums. The blue pigmentation occurs everywhere including the mucus membranes of the mouth and eyes as well as under the fingernails and toenails.

This toxic reaction to silver occurs because the element is absorbed by the body and deposited in the skin, spleen, liver, and other tissues. It's also bound to albumin, which is an element of blood plasma. Some of the silver is excreted in urine, sweat, and feces, but it generally accumulates in the body. There is a belief that increased melanin production caused by exposure to sunlight results in an increased reaction, which is why the blue discoloration is usually worse on areas of the skin exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, and forearms.

Treating Argyria

Currently, argyria is considered incurable, and treatment generally focuses on keeping the discoloration to a minimum. For instance, patients are usually advised to stop taking silver, limit exposure to the sun, and wear sunscreen when outdoors.

However, one possible cure is to use a low-fluence Q-switched 1064-nm Nd:YAG laser on the skin. This type of laser is used to treat a variety of skin disorders such as spider veins and birthmarks or to eliminate unwanted hair. In one experiment, though, researchers were able to return a woman's skin back to normal using this laser. The woman developed argyria after ingesting colloidal silver for at least a year. After seven treatments with the laser, her skin returned to its regular color.

Another possible treatment option is to consume selenium and vitamin E. Argyria is the result of silver toxicity/poisoning. According to available research, selenium binds to heavy metals such as silver. Vitamin E has also been shown to help with silver toxicity. It appears that this mixture may reduce the size of silver particles deposited in the skin but does not eliminate them altogether. The color may lighten after a period of time but will never completely go away.

A third option for treating argyria is to use cosmetic camouflage. This typically involves using makeup such as foundation to counteract the blue hue and make the person appear to have a normal skin hue. This is temporary and requires daily application. An alternative is to tattoo the skin in the shade you want. While expensive (some tattoo artists charge $150 to $500 per hour), it's a long-lasting way to cover up the discoloration.

Argyria is primarily a cosmetic problem, but it can still be very distressing dealing with this condition. For information about other possible treatment options, contact a company like Billings Clinic.