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High-dose oral magnesium treatment of chronic, intractable erythromelalgia.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies with magnesium have shown beneficial effects in pain syndromes and in vascular disorders (hypertension, migraines, Raynaud's phenomenon). However, results have been variable, possibly because of the limited oral doses achievable due to frequent diarrhea.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the case of a 53-year-old white man (the author) with disabling erythromelalgia (EM) who achieved modest improvement limited by adverse effects with calcium antagonists and then obtained remission with the use of magnesium. Intolerant of several standard magnesium products, he attained high doses of magnesium by taking intravenous-grade magnesium sulfate diluted in water orally (up to 24 mL/d of MgSO4 50% = 1166 mg/d of magnesium).

METHODS: After 12 months of continued improvement, patient 1, a board member of The Erythromelalgia Association, notified other members of the success of this therapy via an Internet communication channel. He encouraged those interested in high-dose magnesium therapy to consult their physicians and to report their results to the Association. Twelve patients responded to this request, describing several standard oral magnesium products.

RESULTS: Overall, 8 of 13 patients (61.5%) reported improvement (1, remission; 3, major improvement; 2, moderate improvement; 2, mild improvement). Four patients (30.8%) reported no response to magnesium therapy, and 1 patient's symptoms worsened. Two patients' magnesium dose was limited because of diarrhea.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite recent progress in understanding and treating EM, this vascular disorder remains painful and life-altering for many patients. In this informal survey, the use of high oral doses of magnesium produced good and sometimes dramatic results in 8 of 13 patients who had been unresponsive to many other treatments. These results suggest a possible role for high-dose oral magnesium in the treatment of EM and, perhaps, other vascular disorders.

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