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What is magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency refers to lower than normal levels of magnesium in the body leading to hypomagnesaemia. Magnesium is an essential mineral, which is required by almost all body tissues, especially the nerves. Magnesium deficiency is found to be most common among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Magnesium deficiency is also associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), asthma, coronary heart diseases, altered glucose homeostasis (balance), osteoporosis (bone mineral disorder causing bones to become brittle and weak), chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraine headaches.

What are the main causes?

Magnesium deficiency rarely results from poor dietary intake. It is usually seen in association with other conditions.

Causes of magnesium deficiency include:

  • It is often linked with type II diabetes and digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, short bowel syndrome, and Whipple’s disease.
  • Hormonal disorders and renal (kidney) diseases.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Prolonged usage of drugs taken for gastrointestinal ulcers and reflux disease.
  • Medications such as chemotherapeutic agents, diuretics, and certain antibiotics.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Along with medical history and physical examination, your doctor will check blood magnesium levels.

Normal magnesium levels range from 1.3 to 2.1 mEq/L (0.65 to 1.05 mmol/L).

Other investigations required for diagnosis include:

  • Urine magnesium test.
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel (testing for electrolytes, kidney and liver function, blood glucose, and acid/base balance in the blood).
  • Depending upon your symptoms, your doctor may also order an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Treatment of magnesium deficiency includes:

  • Oral magnesium supplements.
  • Intravenous magnesium supplementation.
  • Magnesium substitution is started with a minimum dosage of 600mg per day.
  • Fluids administered through a vein (intravenous or IV).
  • Medications for symptomatic relief.
  • Most importantly, any underlying condition is evaluated and treated.
  1. Medicines for Magnesium Deficiency
  2. Doctors for Magnesium Deficiency
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Dr. Tanmay Bharani

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  1. Healthdirect Australia. Magnesium. Australian government: Department of Health
  2. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 23;7(9):8199-226. PMID: 26404370
  3. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. Cleveland, Ohio. Magnesium Rich Food.
  4. DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart. 2018 Jan 13;5(1):e000668. PMID: 29387426
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Low magnesium level.
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