Silver is known to have biocidal properties. Presence of active ions of silver is believed to render it with unique antiseptic capabilities. In the presence of an electrical field, the antibacterial actions are known to multiply further, thus making silver as a more effective biocidal substance. Silver in a colloidal form is basically a mixture wherein silver particles are suspended. Colloidal silver is made of salts derived from the base metal (i.e., silver), and has been in use for several decades. However, with the advent of antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, antifungals, etc., the use of colloidal silver has come down. In the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in the medicinal and treatment capabilities of colloidal silver. With such renewed interests in the suspended mixture, it is important to know about the likely side effects.

Colloidal silver was administered onto people affected by bacterial infections; but, the use of this form of silver was quite popular before antibiotics were introduced. In modern times, colloidal silver is considered beneficial by a few alternative medicine experts as well as by supporters of holistic health practices. It is important to know that colloidal silver does not have the approval of the food and drug administration (FDA) in the US. Not stopping with FDA, several reputed as well as modern medical institutions do not recognize colloidal silver as a bactericidal medicine. However, you may be surprised to know that silver has been in active use for multiple infection-control applications. Gauze or solutions with traces of silver are used or the treatment of open wounds, especially those caused by advanced degrees of burns. Medical instruments are often coated with silver to prevent microbial presence on their surface areas.

In this backdrop, colloidal silver has remerged as a biocidal drug in the most recent times – especially, after 1998. You need to know about its active ingredients before reading any further. This mixture contains ammonia and sugars with silver particles (in nano form) suspended in the solution. The nano form of silver makes it hardly visible to the naked eyes. You may need a powerful microscope to see the silver particles suspended in the mixture.

Side effects of colloidal silver

This variant of silver may be safe if used in smaller quantities. Clinical studies reveal that excessive use of colloidal silver is capable of triggering several harmful side effects. Side effects are influenced by the diameter of silver particles suspended in the solution. Use of colloidal silver made of very small or nanoparticles of silver is considered to cause almost nil or very minimal side effects. If silver salts are used, they are likely to cause more harm; this is mainly because these salts bear a positive charge (i.e., positive ions). These positively charged silver ions are considered more toxic to users than to microbes. On the other hand, nanoparticles of silver bear a negative or neutral charge.

Toxicity caused by intake of colloidal silver and related side effects

An unchecked intake of silver ions is known to trigger toxicity. It can lead to a dangerous condition called argyria or toxicity caused by intake of an excessive amount of silver. The caveat here however is – these ions may turn into salts of silver; hence, an excessive use of colloidal silver will lead to more salts to form in your system. So, when large amounts of silver are consumed, it may change the color of the skin. In such instances, the skin color turns gray or blue; such changes may remain for a long time or can last forever. Such changes are unlikely to have a major impact on your overall wellbeing. But, having to live with an abnormal skin color can harm one’s self-esteem.

You may also run the risk of build-up of silver in vital organs such as kidneys, brain, skin, spleen, liver, muscles, etc. Another adverse side effect is – your body may start making excessive amounts of melanin. For these reasons, application of colloidal silver is considered possibly unsafe. The same signs may show up when colloidal silver is administered through an intravenous route. Hence, the IV route is also termed as possibly unsafe for users.

Possible interactions between colloidal silver and other drugs

As colloidal silver is an antimicrobial mixture, it is likely to interact with antibacterial medications such as antibiotics – especially, drugs belonging to the tetracycline genre of antibacterial drugs. Your treating doctor may advise you to provide needful time gap between doses of this silver form and antibiotics. In general, a time gap of three to four hours is suggested in order to avoid possible adverse interactions and any resultant discomforts or side effects. You also need to be careful while taking antibiotics of the quinolone category. Drugs to be watchful of include ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and other similar drugs of the “floxacin” family.

In some instances, people who took medications (such as penicillamine, etc.) for treating autoimmune conditions like arthritis (rheumatoid) as well as Wilson’s syndrome or disease reported a few adverse interactions. Genetic conditions such as Wilson’s syndrome or disease are known to increase the levels of metals (especially, metals like copper) in your body. Penicillamine is mainly used for the removal of metals like copper or traces of the metals in the blood. Similarly, those who consumed thyroid medications such as levothyroxine also witnessed drug-level interactions. Levothyroxine is consumed to treat low level of thyroid secretion – a condition called as hypothyroidism. Such drugs are taken to boost the thyroid levels in your body.

Health of your guts and side effects of silver in your bloodstream

Colloidal silver is known to alter cells in your gut. This may be due to a limited absorption of the solution in your small intestine; as low of 15% (or a marginally higher level) is absorbed there. The unabsorbed silver particles are known to move freely inside your gut. When used for a longer term, bacteria and other microbes living in the intestines may turn tolerant and hence become resistant to colloidal silver. Once such silver gets into your blood stream, it may turn less potent against microbes; this is mainly because the particles are known to bind with protein substances such as albumin.

Use of colloidal silver by pregnant women

During pregnancy, intake or use of silver supplements can pose several health risks. The impact of use – either topical or ingestion – is known to breach the placenta and severely impair the baby’s body. Babies born to women who took silver products or drugs may have poorly developed organs such as neck, ears or nose. The odds of accumulation of silver are very high and silver toxicity or argyria may render a bluish color to the mother’s skin as well as to the baby’s body. Hence, women who are pregnant are advised to avoid using silver based drugs. For the same reason, women who are planning to become pregnant are also advised to stay away from taking colloidal silver or other silver salts.

For others, a topical application of colloidal silver is known to trigger lesser side effects than its ingestion. The efficacy of this silver variant is more pronounced when you have a gut-based infection. In all other cases, you are advised to thoroughly check with a qualified alternative medicine expert before starting to use colloidal silver.

Overdose of colloidal silver

You need to understand that your medical condition – i.e., extent of infections, its spread, gender and your age are important parameters that influence the dosage strength. For substances such as colloidal silver, there are many documented evidences or scientific basis to determine the right dosage level. It is a good practice to strictly adhere to the dosage restrictions listed on the packaging of the product. If you are in need of additional directions, it is highly recommended to talk to your pharmacist or a qualified medical professional. While deciding on whom to take inputs or clarifications, always ensure to approach an expert in alternative medicines or a qualified practitioner.

Upon noticing allergic reactions like change of skin color, itchiness, breathing troubles, wheezing, gasping or shortness of breath, etc., you need to quickly call 911. If you are experiencing an acute spell of dizziness, loss of consciousness, fainting or passing out, you need to quickly seek needful medical attention. In all such circumstances, it is a good practice to reach out to a local poison control center as soon as possible. People who are living in any of the Canadian provinces need to immediately call Health Canada or contact a poison control center located in your province.

Environmental risks

Nanoparticles of silver are known to get into sewers and may get back into the soil while reused as landfills. Thus, silver may get into plants and also into animals i.e., when cattle consume silver-infested plants. Thus, the overall health of an ecosystem may be under severe risk through the presence to silver in sewers. These risks are compounded further as many manufacturers make spurious products based on silver particles. A few trials done on such products showed use of substandard silver particles as well as sub-optimal sizes of such particles. These practices make these products to become less effective against several strands of microbes.

In sum, colloidal silver does not have the approval of regulating agencies like the food and drug administration (FDA). However, since the late 90s, colloidal silver has remerged as an antimicrobial substance. It is essentially a mix of sugars with silver particles suspended in ammonia. It takes a very powerful microscope to observe the particles dispersed in colloidal silver. If you have consumed a lot of colloidal silver, you may observe adverse side effects like discoloration of skin, accumulation of excessive levels of silver in organs like spleen, liver, muscles, kidneys, brain, etc., and also an abundant presence of melanin in the skin.

Your medical condition, type of microbial infection, your age and gender are known to influence the dosage levels and frequency of intake of colloidal silver. In general, it is recommended to adhere to instructions printed on the pack. Always ensure to consult a pharmacist or an expert in alternative medicines prior to starting a dosage plan of colloidal silver. If you notice adverse side effects or allergic reactions such as itchiness, change of skin color, breathing troubles, a persistent spell of dizziness, fainting or passing out, quickly call 911 for medical help. You can also contact a local poison control center; those living in Canada can call Health Canada for medical attention on an urgent basis.

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