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What is Hypomagnesemia (Low magnesium) ?Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

What is Hypomagnesemia (Low magnesium) ?Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
  • Jan 07
  • General Medicine

What Is Hypomagnesium?

As one of the many electrolytes present in the body, magnesium is a vital mineral which is considered to be extremely important for the optimum functioning of the human body. Magnesium is crucial for regulating the blood pressure in the body. It’s also considered to be an important electrolyte required for strengthening of the bones. In addition, it’s responsible for over-regulating over 300 metabolic reactions in the body. As per studies, it has been reported that nearly 2 percent of the general population suffer from hypomagnesemia. Further, this percentage is said to increase in case of hospitalized individuals.

Hypomagnesemia is described as an electrolyte imbalance which occurs when the magnesium levels dip lower than usual. In adults, the normal magnesium values are in the range 1.5-2.5 mg/dL. Needless to say, maintaining ideal magnesium levels is extremely important for maintaining the functioning of the body’s heart and nervous system. When this disorder is left untreated, it could lead to serious health implications while also decreasing the levels of calcium and potassium in the body. When an individual’s magnesium levels are registered to be under 1.25 mg/dL, then the condition is considered as a case of severe hypomagnesemia.


One of the issues associated with hypomagnesemia is that its asymptomatic meaning it might not show any symptoms. The only way of really finding out if the levels of magnesium are low is by undergoing a blood test. However, in the case of people suffering from a mild bout of hypomagnesemia, they might display the following symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness and Spasms
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle weakness, or twitching (particularly in the facial muscles)
  • Changes in the personality
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Numbness

In the case of people with severely low blood magnesium levels, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Decreased reflexes
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression, psychosis
  • Jerky movements or tremors
  • Dancing eyes or nystagmus
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the lips or throat
  • Diarrhea (more than 5 stools per day)
  • Convulsions


Hypomagnesemia usually occurs when there is a lack of magnesium in the diet. Alternatively, magnesium can be excreted by the kidneys or through the gastrointestinal tract and if there’s an excessive release of magnesium, hypomagnesemia may occur. There are several other causes of hypomagnesemia which include:

  • If an individual suffers from stomach or bowel problems, it might affect the ability to absorb the magnesium.
  • In certain instances, hospitalized individuals are prone to hypomagnesemia owing to their illness, a certain type of medication or even due to certain surgeries. Extremely low magnesium levels have been often been observed in severely ill or hospitalized patients.
  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Diuretics such as thiazide, loop, and osmotic/hyperglycemia
  • Optimum absorption of magnesium in the body might also be affected due to diarrhea or laxative use thus resulting in excessive excretion of magnesium from the body
  • Malnutrition
  • Breastfeeding and Pregnancy
  • Certain medications including Cisplatin, Pentamidine, Amphotericin B, Ciclosporin, or other antibiotics that may affect the kidney function.
  • Renal issues/ renal transplant or damage may affect the kidney’s ability to retain magnesium resulting in magnesium deficiency.
  • Excessive sweating and massive burns
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Conditions such as Diabetes mellitus, Hypoparathyroidism, Primary hyperparathyroidism, Primary aldosteronism, Phosphate depletion, Hyperthyroidism, ketoacidosis treatment, intestinal fistula, Hungry bone syndrome, Endocrine disorders – such as Aldosteronism, may all result in hypomagnesemia.
  • Type 2 diabetes


Before a treatment plan can be suggested, the doctor will check the individual’s medical history following which a detailed physical examination will be conducted. Diagnostic tests such as EKG & blood tests will be recommended to analyze calcium levels and to gauge levels of magnesium & potassium in the blood.

The healthcare professional will then suggest an appropriate treatment plan to increase the blood magnesium levels. A diet rich in magnesium foods such as spinach, black beans, whole grain cereal, dry fruits such as almonds, cashews, peanuts etc., soya beans and soymilk, whole wheat bread, avocado, banana, salmon, baked potato with the skin will be suggested to increase magnesium levels in the blood.

In cases where the deficiencies are severe, the consulting doctor may recommend medications to increase the levels to a safe range. Oral magnesium salts may be prescribed or medication may also be given intravenously in order to increase the blood magnesium levels to a safe range. Ongoing monitoring will be carried out to help determine whether the treatment is effective.

It is important to keep hydrated by drinking at least 2 to 3 liters of fluid on a daily basis. Individuals are also advised to drink energy fluids as it may help pump up levels of magnesium.  Chances are that an individual suffering from severely low blood magnesium levels might also have calcium (hypocalcemia) and potassium deficiency (hypokalemia). Accordingly, the healthcare professionals may suggest oral supplements to ensure levels are normalized.

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