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Colloidal Silver Benefits: Myth or Reality?

There are lots of claims about colloidal silver, including that it can treat anything from colds to HIV/AIDS and cancer. But what is this liquid silver? Is it safe to use? In this article, we take a closer look at colloidal silver, the risks, claims, and whether it’s truly a cure-all. 

Colloidal silver is made up of silver particles (like those found in jewelry) that have been suspended in a liquid. This liquid silver is then sold in creams, oral supplements, and as injections. Colloidal silver is often marketed as a cure-all that can help treat conditions such as shingles, herpes, eye ailments, and cancer. However, there is no evidence that these dietary supplements help in these conditions.

Colloidal silver is not an essential nutrient for the body. In fact, there is no evidence that ingesting colloidal silver has any benefit. There are currently no legally marketed liquid silver supplements, prescription or otherwise. The FDA has even warned against taking colloidal silver and has taken action against companies that market the product. 

Colloidal silver has many side effects. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, and contact them immediately if you experience any of the following side effects. 

  • Argyria — Argyria is the build up of liquid silver in the skin, eyes, internal organs, nails, and gums, causing a blue–gray discoloration. Silver buildup can happen due to exposure to silver in food, water, or certain industries such as jewelry making or soldering. Liquid silver supplements accelerate these processes. The condition is not harmful, but the blue–gray color remains even after you stop taking silver.
  • Kidney damage — Taking colloidal silver supplements can cause kidney damage because silver is partially cleared by the kidneys. In one study, a dialysis-dependent patient used silver sulfadiazine (SSD) for burns, resulting in elevated levels of silver in the blood, which put him into a coma. After a change in treatment, the patient saw a reversal of adverse effects. 
  • Stomach distress
  • Headaches
  • Brain and nerve damage — This happens very rarely and only with excessive amounts of liquid silver.

When used topically on the skin, liquid silver can also cause an electrolyte imbalance. In addition to these side effects, colloidal silver can also interact with certain medications, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency).

Although there are no research-proven medical benefits to colloidal silver, silver itself is somewhere used in the medical field for its antibacterial properties. Historically, silver was used to preserve the freshness of water, treat wounds, and prevent eye infections in newborns. Today, silver is used in wound dressing, protheses, and burns. Recently, studies have looked into silver nanoparticles, which can block the growth and spread of bacteria. These nanoparticles have been incorporated into wound dressing to help prevent infection.

There are three types of silver-based topical applications used to treat burns: silver-nitrate-soaked gauzes, SSD creams, and silver-nanoparticle-infused dressing. Originally, silver-nitrate-soaked gauzes were used to treat burns to prevent water loss and bacterial infection. However, the gauze needed to be replaced twice a day, the silver solution replaced every two hours, and fluids had to be administered throughout the recovery process. SSD creams combine silver nitrate and sodium sulfadiazine, and they were created to combat these issues. These creams need less frequent reapplication and decrease the need for fluids. However, studies have shown that patients treated with SSD creams experienced irregular healing scars and complications after recovery.  

In recent years, fabric with silver nanoparticles has been used because it slowly releases silver particles, increasing the amount of contact the silver has with the wound. This increases the antibacterial ability of the silver. In one study, a weak current was applied to the fabric, which increased the release of these particles. This resulted in a better recovery in animal models. In patients with ulcers, silver-infused fabrics weren’t any better than normal wound dressings in terms of recovery. Silver-infused fabrics applied to surgical sites were shown to reduce infection rates. 

The type of silver treatment depends on the specific case, and both SSD and silver-infused fabrics are used. Additional research is needed for ulcer and surgical applications.

A catheter is a thin tube inserted in the body. Catheters are used for a variety of surgical procedures. For long hospital visits, catheters can pose an infection risk. Doctors use silver in catheters to help prevent the spread of infection. Although more research is needed, preliminary studies have looked at whether silver-infused catheters could help reduce infections. For catheters in veins, silver-infused catheters were no better than normal catheters. For urinary catheters, silver-infused catheters resulted in fewer bacterial infections.

The prolonged use of ventilators can increase your risk of developing infections. One of these infections is ventilator-associated pneumonia, which is often fatal. Some researchers propose coating the tubes with silver to slow the buildup of bacteria. In animal studies, silver endotracheal tubes (going into the airway) prevented biofilms from forming but didn’t help reduce bacterial growth in airways. In patient studies, silver was shown to delay the onset of infection and reduce the occurence of ventilator-associated pneumonia. 

External pins used to repair fractures also present a risk of infection. Researchers studied whether silver-coated pins could reduce bacterial growth. In animal studies, they found that the silver pins had less bacteria than the traditional stainless steel pins. In patient studies, there were no clinical benefits to using silver pins. In fact, the study was stopped because there was an increase of silver in the blood with no clinical benefit.

Silver has been infused into the rings of prosthetic heart valves to prevent a bacterial infection of damaged heart tissue called endocarditis. Studies show that most patients had no recurrent endocarditis, and there was a reduction in the death rate. However, later on and in other studies, patients had to get replacement valves and experienced other side effects.

Colloidal silver is marketed to have a lot of uses, but there is no evidence to support these claims. In fact, liquid silver can be toxic, causing side effects ranging from silver buildup in the body to harmful damage in internal organs. It’s not safe to ingest liquid silver, and you should always consult a doctor before taking any supplements. Silver in other forms is used throughout the medical field for its antibacterial properties. 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/colloidal-silver/faq-20058061

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/colloidalsilver

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955599/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955599/

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