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Argyria (ISV from Greek: ἄργυρος argyros silver + -ia) is a condition caused by improper exposure to chemical forms of the element silver, silver dust, or silver compounds.[1] The most dramatic symptom of argyria is that the skin becomes blue or bluish-grey colored. Argyria may be found as generalized argyria or local argyria. Argyrosis is the corresponding condition related to the eye.


Biological effect

In animals and humans, silver accumulates in the body over time.[2] Chronic intake of silver products can result in an accumulation of silver or silver sulfide particles in the skin. As in photography (where silver is used due to its reactivity with light), these particles in the skin darken with exposure to sunlight, resulting in a blue or gray discoloration of the skin. This condition is known as argyria. Chronic ingestion of silver can similarly lead to an accumulation of silver in the eye (argyrosis) and in other organs.[3] Localized argyria can occur as a result of topical use of substances containing silver, while generalized argyria results from the chronic ingestion of such substances.[4] Argyria is generally believed to be irreversible, with the only practical method of minimizing its cosmetic disfigurement being to avoid the sun,[5] but laser therapy has been used to treat it with satisfactory cosmetic results.[6][7][8] The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes argyria as a "cosmetic problem",[9] which is not harmful, but it is mildly disfiguring and thus some people find it to be socially debilitating.[10][11]

Generally, "silver exhibits low toxicity in the human body, and minimal risk is expected due to clinical exposure,"[3] when silver or silver compounds are used in the treatment of external infections or in medical appliances. Lansdown states that "Chronic ingestion or inhalation of silver preparations (especially colloidal silver) can lead to deposition of silver metal/silver sulphide particles in the skin (argyria), eye (argyrosis) and other organs. These are not life-threatening conditions but cosmetically undesirable.” This view is supported by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)[12][13] and other authorities.[3][14] Only one death has been reported in the medical literature which the authors felt was due to silver toxicity. In that case, a 71-year-old man developed status epilepticus after repeated oral ingestion of colloidal silver.[15] The reference dose, published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1991, which recommends the estimated daily exposure which is unlikely to incur an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime, is 5 µg/kg/d; meaning 5 microgram of silver per kilogram of weight per person each day – about 1 liter of 10 ppm colloidal silver per month for a 66 kg person.[16]

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