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Magnesium Deficiency Signs and Symptoms

Published by Nanni on Monday, October 08, 2012

Photo credit by keatl

When Timothy, 33, found himself nodding off at work two days in a row, he first blamed it on a couple of nights of limited sleep. As a patient with Crohn’s disease, a digestive illness, he sometimes found himself up several times a night to go to the bathroom.

A week later, his boss mentioned that other employees had noted Timothy falling asleep as many as three times a day. A visit to his gastroenterologist and some lab work traced the problem to a case of magnesium deficiency. His doctor explained that it's fairly common among Crohn’s patients.

The mineral magnesium is an essential part of human nutrition. It’s in charge of how and when your muscles contract and relax. It also controls the function of specific enzymes, how energy is produced and transported and how the body makes protein.

The most common foods rich in magnesium include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, dried apricots and avocados. Nuts like almonds and cashews, peas, beans and seeds are high in magnesium. So are soy products like soy flour and tofu and whole grains like brown rice and millet. Unfortunately, many individuals with digestive woes must avoid many of these foods.

The most common signs of a magnesium deficiency include hyperexcitability, muscle weakness and sleepiness. Doctors have divided symptoms resulting from a deficiency into three categories.

Early symptoms. Patients can show signs of a long list of problems. However, nine symptoms characterize this phase. They include anorexia, apathy, confusion, fatigue and insomnia. Also on the list are irritability, muscle twitching, faulty memory and lowered ability to learn.

Moderate signs. In this category, patients are likely to undergo cardiovascular changes. They might experience a rapid heartbeat.

Severe deficiency. Individuals in this stage exhibit continued muscle contraction, numbness, seeing or hearing imaginary things, tingling and even delirium.

An additional symptom of a magnesium deficiency is knotting of muscle and nerve fibers, known as fasciculation. The onset for many types of the muscle twitching common to many patients is sudden. Some individuals experience spells of dizziness and coma.

In babies and children suffering from this deficiency, loss of appetite, a failure to thrive, impaired development and general apathy are common symptoms. Some researchers have linked low levels of magnesium to sleep apnea and a rapid pulse rate increase. Others cite a hypothetical connection between the deficiency and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Sometimes a magnesium deficiency can bring on a condition known as neonatal tetany. Patients with this affliction have muscular convulsions. The deficiency can result in a domino effect in body chemistry. For example, it can cause a severe drop in the levels of calcium in the blood, which in turn causes additional problems.

Individuals who take prescriptions that can deplete the level of potassium in their body often have a magnesium deficiency as well. So do those who use too many laxatives or suffer from long-term alcoholism. Patients with injuries from severe burns, heart failure or long-term diabetes are also likely to have this deficiency. As a matter of fact, magnesium deficiency has been found in nearly two-third of all patients in surveyed intensive care units in the United States.

In order to determine whether a deficiency exists, individuals who suffer any of the symptoms linked to low levels of magnesium should consult their physicians.

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