Home › Magnesium deficiency › What is hypomagnesemia › Hypomagnesemia causes - Low magnesium levels causes
What are the causes of hypomagnesemia?Low magnesium levels in the blood serum is the cause of hypomagnesemia. Hypomagnesemia is caused when the blood serum magnesium falls below 0.7 mmol/L (1.4 mEq/L).
AdvertisementsHypomagnesemia is an underrecognized and underdiagnosed condition as rarely serum magnesium levels are tested. Serum magnesium (Mg2+) deficiency is not uncommon in alcoholics, hospitalized patients and in those taking diuretics or proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPIs).
Asymptomatic hypomagnesemia is found to occur in patients with type 2 diabetes. Magnesium is essential for the life processes as it is involved in hundreds of biosynthetic and enzymatic reactions in the human body. Causes of hypomagnesemia include inadequate magnesium intake, malnutrition, poor absorption, gastrointestinal loss, excessive renal loss, rare disorders, extensive injuries or burns and the use of diuretics and certain medications.
Common causes of hypomagnesemiaThe most common causes of low levels of magnesium in the blood include malnutrition, inadequacy in diet, malabsorption, gastrointestinal losses, renal losses and alcoholism.
Hypomagnesemia due to malnutrition and malabsorptionElderly persons are very vulnerable to develop hypomagnesemia due to inadequate nutrition, poor absorption and excessive excretion. In severely malnourished or starving patients refeeding syndrome occurs when they are fed with high carbohydrate food. With the expanding extracellular fluid volume, there is sharp fall in mineral serum levels and a marked low in serum magnesium.
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Patients dependent on total parenteral nutrition also do not receive sufficient balanced nutrition and may have low serum Mg2+ levels and hypomagnesemia. Preterm babies may have some degree of renal insufficiency and develop hypomagnesemia. Pregnancy and lactation may also cause low magnesium levels and hypomagnesemia when there is inadequate intake.
Gastrointestinal (GI) magnesium losses and hypomagnesemiaGastrointestinal losses is the major cause of hypomagnesemia. These losses may occur due to prolonged vomiting, nasogastric suction, diarrhea or chronic dysentery. Vomiting and nasogastric suction, apart from emptying the upper GI tract, remove the secretions as well as some of the body fluids. Hence repeated nasogastric suction or vomiting can cause low magnesium levels and hypomagnesemia.
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The distal GI tract fluids are richer in Mg2+ when compared to upper GI tract fluids. When diarrhea or dysentery occurs, body fluids rich in minerals are lost, leading to low serum magnesium levels and hypomagnesemia. The distal GI tract is the major site of magnesium absorption. Any infection or damage to this region of the bowel can lead to low magnesium uptake. Any surgical removal of part of the small intestine or bypass surgery may reduce the mineral absorption and cause hypomagnesemia.
Renal magnesium losses and hypomagnesemiaRenal Mg2+ losses primarily occur due to renal disorders, kidney malfunction or dysfunction. Basically there is decreased tubular reabsorption of Mg2+ ions in renal ailments. The medical conditions such as renal tubular acidosis, acute tubular necrosis, glomerulonephritis, pyelonephritis or massive diuresis after relief of urinary tract obstruction, cause low magnesium levels due to its reduced reabsorption and active excretion from the body.
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Diuretics interfere with magnesium reabsorption and cause low levels of the mineral in the serum. Antibiotics like gentamicin and anti-cancer drugs like cisplatin are noted to cause low serum levels of the mineral and symptomatic hypomagnesemia. It is also to be noted that excessive supplementation of vitamin D or calcium results in low magnesium levels due its excessive excretion.
Alcoholism and hypomagnesemiaHypomagnesemia is caused in most of alcoholics and patients affected by withdrawal symptoms or delirium tremens. Alcohol has diuretic action and stimulates renal excretion leading to low serum levels of the essential minerals. Alcoholics in general suffer from malnutrition and malabsorption.
Disturbed magnesium homeostasis and hypomagnesemiaThe redistribution of magnesium from extracellular space to intracellular space or bone can cause low serum Mg2+ levels. Massive mineralization of the bones occurs in the case of the surgical removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands (parathyroidectomy) or surgical removal of entire thyroid gland (total thyroidectomy). In such cases there is disturbed homeostasis of magnesium with drastic transfer from extracellular fluid space to bones leading to its low levels in the serum and hypomagnesemia. Mg2+ homeostasis is disturbed when insulin therapy is carried out for diabetic ketoacidosis. Insulin increases the movement of potassium, magnesium and phosphorus into the cells leading to low serum mineral levels.
Prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and hypomagnesemiaPrescription proton pump inhibitor drugs are widely used to treat conditions such as high gastric acid secretion, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach and small intestine ulcers, and inflammation of the esophagus. FDA drug safety communication of March 3, 2011 informed public that taking prescription PPI drugs could cause low serum magnesium levels leading to hypomagnesaemia if taken for prolonged periods. Low strength OTC PPIs may not pose the risk of hypomagnesaemia. FDA advises periodic analysis of serum magnesium levels in the event of prolonged prescription PPI use.
Hypomagnesaemia caused by inherited disordersGitelman syndrome, Bartter syndrome, autosomal-dominant hypocalcemia with hypercalciuria (ADHH), isolated recessive hypomagnesemia (IRH), isolated dominant hypomagnesemia (IDH) with hypocalciuria and hypomagnesemia with secondary hypocalcemia (HSH) are some of the low serum magnesium levels caused by inherited genetic mutations.
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1.Kevin J. Martin, Esther A. González, Eduardo Slatopolsky. Clinical Consequences and Management of Hypomagnesemia. JASN November 1, 2009 vol. 20 no. 11 2291-2295
2.David R. Mouw, Robyn A. Latessa. What are the causes of hypomagnesemia? J Fam Pract. 2005 February;54(02):156-178.
3.FDA Drug Safety Communication: Low magnesium levels can be associated with long-term use of Proton Pump Inhibitor drugs (PPIs)(3-2-2011)
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Current topic on nutritional deficiency diseases: Causes of low magnesium levels and hypomagnesemia.