What is hypomagnesemia?

Hypomagnesemia means the levels of magnesium in your body are too low. This mineral is important for your health. It helps with creating energy, having a healthy heart, regulating your metabolism and keeping your blood pressure stable. Your kidneys regulate your magnesium levels. This condition means either you have been unable to absorb enough through food or are getting rid of too much magnesium through your urine.

Causes of hypomagnesemia

Hypomagnesemia can happen when your digestive system doesn't absorb minerals normally. Having diarrhea or not getting enough magnesium from your food or supplements can cause this condition. Other factors that may contribute to getting hypomagnesemia include:

  • Age
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Taking certain medications or diuretics
  • Having certain surgeries or illnesses like gastrointestinal disease

Risk factors for hypomagnesemia

Your body can't make magnesium on its own. You need to get it through the foods you eat. You may be at greater risk for hypomagnesemia if one of the following applies to you:

  • You have diabetes
  • You're an alcoholic
  • You're breastfeeding
  • You're older; magnesium becomes more difficult to absorb as you age
  • You're malnourished through diseases like an eating disorder or another condition that affects your digestion or brings about diarrhea or vomiting

Some medications may also increase your risk for developing this condition. These drugs include antifungal drugs, medicine that makes you urinate frequently and some chemotherapy drugs.

Symptoms of hypomagnesemia

At first, you may show no symptoms of hypomagnesemia. However, some early signs include having an upset stomach and a decreased appetite. You may even find yourself feeling weak and vomiting.

Other symptoms of hypomagnesemia include:

  • Seizures
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Changes in your personality
  • Numbness and tingling in your body
  • Having spasms or cramps in your muscles

Diagnosis of hypomagnesemia

Diagnosing hypomagnesemia can be hard. A blood test can't show your doctor how much of the mineral is in your bones and muscle tissue. This is where your body stores most of the magnesium. If you're experiencing symptoms, your doctor still may order a blood test. They might also perform a physical exam. The doctor can review your medical history to see if you have other health conditions.

If the level of magnesium in your blood is lower than 1.8 milligrams per deciliter, your levels are considered low. If your level is below 1.25 mg/dL, your condition is considered severe. Often, doctors may not find this condition until the levels are severely low. This is when symptoms often first appear.

Treatments for hypomagnesemia

Some people are diagnosed without showing any symptoms. In this case, simply taking a magnesium supplement should help you increase your levels of the mineral. Still, it's important to determine what is the underlying cause of this condition. Your doctor will likely want to treat that, too.

Other treatments for hypomagnesemia include:

  • Getting a magnesium supplement directly into your blood through an IV if your levels are very low
  • Eating foods that are rich in magnesium, such as nuts, legumes, avocadoes, brown rice and greens
  • Taking a calcium supplement to treat another imbalance that may be present when you have hypomagnesemia

Prevention is the best treatment. That's because hypomagnesemia is also common in people who are in the hospital. If you have Crohn's disease or diabetes or are taking diuretics, be sure to increase your magnesium only after talking with your doctor. They can advise you of any other lifestyle changes you may need to make.

Recovery from hypomagnesemia

Once you add the needed magnesium into your body, your symptoms should reverse. This can help you start feeling better. Of course, it's important to be careful not to take too much of the supplement. High magnesium levels can be unhealthy, too. Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations. Report any changes in your symptoms right away.

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