Some people take colloidal silver for its antibacterial effects, using it as a supplement or homeopathic remedy. Some of these products can be applied topically, sprayed into the nasal passages, injected, or taken orally.
Silver’s medicinal properties have been used for centuries, but one of colloidal silver’s side effects is blue skin. If silver accumulates in the body’s system, it can make skin tissue become gray-blue. This condition is called argyria.
You’ll learn more about how colloidal silver can cause argyria in this post, including how it happens, who is more at risk, and whether there is a cure.
Purposes Of Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is a solution full of small silver particles. People have been using silver for medicinal uses throughout history. Topical silver products are used in the modern era as silver’s antibacterial elements may support wound healing.
The NCCIH (National Centre For Complementary and Integrative Health) states that topically using silver can have suitable medicinal applications. It can be used in dressings to help wounds and burns heal.
There are also eye drops designed to aid conjunctivitis in infants which are made with silver (Also check out this Comprehensive Guide of Colloidal Silver For Eyes).
Topical usage of silver isn’t believed to lead to argyria, as long as it is done so in small quantities. Oral usage, however, is another matter.
Colloidal silver is often sold commercially as a dietary supplement. Often used as a homeopathic remedy, colloidal silver is used to encourage healing, prevent infections, and improve immunity.
Some colloidal silver sellers make extreme claims, asserting that it can treat pneumonia, HIV, cancer, and AIDS. These claims aren’t based on research, as the NCCIH expresses that there isn’t any scientific proof that endorses oral colloidal silver use.
Dietary and homeopathic supplements don’t need FDA sanction before they are sold, so there are several oral colloidal silver products on the market. These can lead to severe side effects, like argyria.
Colloidal Silver And Argyria
Brown University researchers found that several complex chemical processes lead to argyria. The stomach breaks up silver when it’s consumed, allowing the bloodstream to take up positively charged silver ions.
These ions attach themselves to sulfur within blood proteins, which are then unloaded into the skin. When sunlight comes into contact with these, the ions transform into silver once more, which makes the skin turn a blue-gray shade.
We still don’t fully know how much silver is needed to induce argyria, or how long the exposure duration needs to be. Research findings vary, as exposure lengths can be as little as eight months or as much as five years.
After argyria happens, skin color changes are permanent.
Why Does Argyria Happen?
Silver is a natural substance that you are exposed to daily. Trace amounts of silver are found in water, air, and food. Argyria can occur if there is an excess of silver in the body, normally the result of extended exposure.
Silver generates a chemical response when it gets to the stomach, then enters the bloodstream after it’s broken down.
The majority of silver we ingest takes a week to leave our system through urine and feces. However, if you ingest an excess of silver, the body can struggle to adapt.
Any silver which doesn’t leave the system enters other tissues, like the skin, and continues to accumulate. The skin then turns blue after it comes into contact with light.
The primary symptom of argyria is the skin turning blue to gray. This might begin with a slight discoloration or a tiny area, but this may ultimately spread across your whole body.
The discoloration will vary based on how much silver is within the body. Some patients notice that their gums turn gray or brown. Hyperpigmentation may also affect the nail beds, mucous membranes, or conjunctival membranes.
Argyria can develop quickly if the individual has been exposed to a large quantity of silver. It can progress at a slower rate if the person uses products that contain smaller quantities of silver. This may take a few months or years.
Skin areas that are exposed to the sun, like the face and hands, can turn darker compared to other areas which are covered by clothing.
Possible Side Effects
Argyria isn’t dangerous, but it is irreversible. Skin color changes can lead to anxiety, depression, and social difficulties.
In addition to argyria, colloidal silver can lead to other complications, like
- Muscle weakness
- Potential kidney, nervous system, blood, or liver disorders
- Poor interactions with some medications make them less effective and increase side effects
- Too much fluid in the lungs (Pleural edema)
- Agranulocytosis, a severe condition where bone marrow doesn’t create sufficient white blood cells
Animal experiments have found that colloidal silver leads to embryonic changes, but research is yet to look at human participants.
Colloidal silver hasn’t been tested as safe for developing babies, so it shouldn’t be recommended to people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How Is Agryria Diagnosed?
If your skin, nails, or eyes turn gray or blue, see your doctor immediately. Do this even if you don’t take colloidal silver, as there may be a chance that you have been exposed to silver regardless.
Everyone has small quantities of silver in their system, and there are lots of ways to measure this. Your doctor can look at blood, stool, or urine samples to assess whether you’ve been in contact with silver recently.
A skin tissue sample, called a skin biopsy, is needed to diagnose argyria. This will be examined under a microscope to locate the blue discoloration.
After a person has been diagnosed with argyria, they can take the measures needed to prevent further contact with the silver.
Will Colloidal Silver Make My Skin Blue?
You can prevent argyria by avoiding oral colloidal silver supplements. Taking colloidal silver internally hasn’t been proven safe or efficient.
Still, silver can be a great antibacterial agent, helping to treat or prevent infections. You may be able to use colloidal silver topically, but always get your doctor’s approval beforehand.
If you do use colloidal silver topically, keep monitoring the affected area. If you notice any inflammation or redness, stop using the product and get medical help.
Can You Cure Argyria?
There is no cure for argyria, but current laser treatment trials show promise in aiding skin discoloration. Results have been noticed after a single treatment, but more studies are required to prove its effectiveness.
Other than avoiding oral colloidal silver supplements, here are other things you can do to prevent excess silver exposure:
- Don’t use cosmetic products which contain silver
- If your job involves working with silver, wear protective gloves and defensive gear.
- Don’t take medications or dietary supplements which contain silver.
Light exposure also affects argyria, as the light makes the skin darker. Always wear sunscreen and cover your skin with clothing when you’re out in the sun.
The Bottom Line
Ingesting colloidal silver can make your skin turn blue, known as argyria. The condition isn’t usually serious, but the effects are irreversible.
Argyria is generally related to oral silver consumption, so you may be able to apply colloidal silver topically for its antibacterial effects.
If you choose to use these treatments, always notify your doctor. They will be able to supervise your care and tell you if the silver affects any medications you’re taking.