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With Comments by Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD
May 2001; Volume 3; 33-36
Promoters of colloidal silver have claimed that no cases of argyria have been linked with the colloidal form. While that may well have been true at the earliest stages of marketing (the condition takes months or years to develop), that claim can no longer be made. A 35-year-old woman presented with typical blue-gray discoloration of skin and nail beds after ingesting mild colloidal silver protein (25 mcg/tsp) for one year;1 in another case a 38-year-old woman presented with a blue-gray facial discoloration after ingesting an unspecified form of colloidal silver (1/4 cup tid for eight months) in an effort to treat Lyme disease with this "natural " antibiotic.2 Neither patient had other complications. In the third case, a 55-year-old man who had been taking a teaspoon of colloidal silver tid for three years in an effort to treat allergies also developed argyria.3
The first sign of argyria is often a slate-blue or silver line in the gingiva. The grayish hue that characterizes argyria is a combination of silver deposits and melanin pigmentation; silver stimulates melanocytes. Discoloration often is more pronounced in sun-exposed areas, as light reduces silver. Argyria is unattractive but the dermatological form is otherwise benign. However, rare cases of silver deposition in internal organs have been reported; neurological deficits may result but are extremely rare.
Argyria is irreversible; chelation therapy with B A L or D—penicillamine has been ineffective. Intradermal injection with 6% sodium thiosulfate or 1% potassium ferrocyanide occasionally has resulted in successful local reversal, but this is not practical for large areas of discoloration.4
1. Kim CS. Argyria secondary to chronic ingestion of colloidal silver. Clin Toxicol 2000;38:552.
2. Newman M, Kolecki P. Argyria in the emergency department. Clin Toxicol 2000;38:553.
3. Gulbranson SH, et al. Argyria following the use of dietary supplements containing colloidal silver protein. Cutis 2000;66:373-374.
4. Fung MC, Bowen DL. Silver products for medical indications: Risk-benefit assessment. Clin Toxicol 1996;34: 119-126.