Argyria is a rare condition that makes your complexion to turn blue or gray shade. This is caused by the overexposure to silver. When the body is subjected to a large-dose of exposure or prolonged exposure to small amounts of silver, it changes its color to blue.
Silver is not always a bad thing for your health. There are many medical uses of silver. It has been used in bandages, salves, and medicines such as eye drops. Argyria is a very rare condition and it is not a threat to life. It only affects the life by changing your appearance and interaction with people.
Read this article to know more about argyria, what causes it and what should you do to avoid it.
Symptoms of argyria
The most obvious change that you will see in your skin is the change of its color. It may start from a small part that may only look like a tinge. It can, later on, spread and cover the skin of the entire body.
The color change sometimes starts from gums. The first symptom to show up is gray or brown discoloration of your gums. The same hyperpigmentation may also show up in
- Nail beds
- conjunctival membranes
- mucous membranes
The spread of this discoloration depends on how much amount of silver is making its way inside your body. Overexposure of silver in large quantity makes the spread faster.
If you are exposed to the extremely high level of silver, this condition of argyria can develop very rapidly. If your exposure of silver involves small amounts of silver, the discoloration will take place slowly. It may take months or sometimes years to develop argyria.
The areas of your body that are exposed to the sun may show the discoloration more visibly than covered areas of the body. This extra discoloration is due to sunburn and general sun damage to the body.
Causes of argyria
The one and only cause of argyria is silver. Silver is a naturally occurring substance that is generally present in your surroundings. You get exposed to a minor quantity of silver each day that is present in your food, water and sometimes in the air too.
This silver can enter inside your body by mouth, mucous membranes of skin too. The body develops argyria when it has too much silver inside it. It is only caused by prolonged exposure to silver. This silver when reaches to your stomach, it initiates a chemical reaction which breaks it down into smaller components and this silver becomes a part of your bloodstream.
Only within a week, this silver that we consume is excreted out from the body via feces and urine. When you are taking too much silver, the body has less time to keep it up.
The remaining amount of silver that is not discarded becomes deposited in the skin. It continues to build up inside the body and when the skin is exposed to light it shows the blue-gray color.
What causes deposition of silver in your body?
The only reason that causes too much silver deposited inside your body is when you are exposed to the silver for long. This is more likely to happen if you are working in any silver industry, jewelry industry, or in photographic processing.
Some daily life products that you use also contain silver in it. this includes
- antimicrobial health tonics
- medication with silver salts
- colloidal silver dietary supplements (cure cells)
- silver sutures that are used in surgery
- silver dental fillings
Silver is not always mentioned as “silver” in the ingredient list of any product. Following are the active forms of silver that are a part of silver containing products. Check the products for following ingredients.
- ionic silver
- native silver
- silver alginate
- silver protein
- silver sulphadiazine
- colloidal silver
- colloidal silver protein
- true colloidal silver
The risk is higher if you are using eye drops or makeup that has silver in it. It will cause localized argyria of the eye. Contrary to that, wearing silver jewelry or using silver utensils has no effect on argyria.
Rarely, silver needles that you use in acupuncture or silver earrings can cause localized argyria. The dietary supplements that have silver in it also add up to the accumulated silver inside the body. It also affects the absorbance of many medicines such as
- quinolone antibiotics; ciprofloxacin (Cipro), norfloxacin (Noroxin), and ofloxacin
- penicillamine (Cuprimine)
Who’s at risk of Argyria?
Anyone who has an exposure to a large amount of silver has the highest risk of getting argyria. This is the only risk factor for argyria. It is not clear yet that how much amount o silver or how long exposure to silver cause this exact condition.
Your chances of getting argyria increase if
- You are taking dietary supplements or medications that have silver
- You are using eye drops or cosmetics that have silver
- You are working at a place that exposes you to silver for long
Workplace exposure may occur when you are working in
- silver mines
- silver refinery plant
- jewelry industry
- silverware and metal alloy manufacturing plant
- photographic processing
Diagnoses of Argyria
If you see any blue or gray discoloration on your skin, eyes, or nails, get yourself checked by your doctor right away. The silver is present in trace amount in our body and it is even measured in many ways.
One way to check silver is by blood and urine samples. It will tell if you have been exposed to high amount of silver in last week, as the excess silver normally excretes completely in one week. The doctor will suggest getting blood and urine samples tested if he doubts that you are suffering from Argyria.
It will be diagnosed by taking a small tissue sample from the skin. This sample will be studied that is called skin biopsy. This study will take place with microscopy and the examination of your skin cells will tell if there is any blue-gray pigmentation taking place or not.
Once this diagnosis is completed and confirmed, the next step is to manage the disease and control the exposure to silver.
Is there a treatment for Argyria?
Argyria has no treatment. But research tells that laser treatment has shown promising results for skin discoloration overall. The improvement can be seen even from one sitting of laser treatment. But the use of a laser for argyria has its own limitations. There is a requirement for more research to check if it is efficient for the said condition or not.
On your own, you can take the following measures to prevent the exposure to silver.
- Cover yourself with gloves and other protective coverings if you work in silver.
- Do not use supplements and medicines that have silver in it.
- Do not use makeup that has silver in it.
- Exposure to the sun makes it worse, so try to avoid the light and use sunscreen daily when you are out in sun.
If you are diagnosed with argyria, it is not possible to reverse it by any mean. Only using laser treatment can make some improvement but even that is not a preferred treatment for Argyria.
Argyria has no life-threatening complications. Only your skin will change its color and the rest of body functions will be normal. Silver is not related to any type of disease or disorder such as cancer.
The only concern with argyria is cosmetic value. It may affect the emotional level and impact the quality of life for people. If Argyria is making you depressed, you should talk to your doctor. They will refer you to a therapist or consultant to get over it.