Magnesium sulfate (medical use)
Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate
|Trade names||Epsom salt, others|
|IV, IM, by mouth, topical|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Formula||MgSO4 - 7H2O|
|3D model (JSmol)|
Magnesium sulfate as a medication is used to treat and prevent low blood magnesium and seizures in women with eclampsia. It is also used in the treatment of torsades de pointes, severe asthma exacerbations, constipation, and barium poisoning. It is given by injection into a vein or muscle as well as by mouth. As epsom salts, it is also used for mineral baths.
Common side effects include low blood pressure, skin flushing, and low blood calcium. Other side effects may include vomiting, muscle weakness, and decreased breathing. While there is evidence that use during pregnancy may harm the baby, the benefits in certain conditions are greater than the risks. Its use during breastfeeding is deemed to be safe. Magnesium sulfate for medical use is the magnesium sulfate heptahydrate salt. The way it works is not fully understood, but is believed to involve depressing the action of neurons.
Magnesium sulfate came into medical use at least as early as 1618. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about US$0.35–8.73 per 10 ml of 50% solution. In the United Kingdom 4 ml of 20% solution costs the NHS about 10.23 pounds. In the United States a course of medication typically costs less than $25.
Magnesium sulfate is the primary treatment and preventative measure in women with eclampsia. It lowers systolic blood pressure while maintaining diastolic blood pressure, thus leaving blood flow to the fetus uncompromised.
Magnesium sulphate was once used as a tocolytic, but meta-analyses have failed to support it as an anti-contraction medication. Usage for prolonged periods (more than five to seven days) may result in health problems for the baby.
In those at risk of an early delivery, magnesium sulfate appears to decrease the risk of cerebral palsy. It is unclear if it helps those who are born at term. Guidelines for the use of magnesium sulfate in mothers at risk of preterm labour are not strongly adhered to.
Magnesium sulfate is used in bath salts, particularly in flotation therapy, where high concentrations raise the bath water's specific gravity, effectively making the body more buoyant. Traditionally, it is also used to prepare foot baths, intended to soothe sore feet. The reason for the inclusion of the salt is partially cosmetic: the increase in ionic strength prevents some of the temporary skin wrinkling (partial maceration) which is caused by prolonged immersion of extremities in pure water. Magnesium and sulfate ions are naturally present in some mineral waters. The claimed health benefits of Epsom Salt baths have not been proven.
A magnesium sulphate paste is also available which is claimed to be useful for small boils or localised infections. The standard British Pharmacopoeia composition is dried Magnesium Sulfate 47.76% w/w, Phenol 0.49% w/w. and glycerol (E422).
Magnesium sulfate has been used as an experimental treatment of Irukandji syndrome caused by envenomation by certain species of Irukandji jellyfish, but the efficacy of this treatment remains unproven.
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