By Margarita Snegireva. Magnesium sulfate, a cheap and widely available drug, may prevent developing cerebral palsy in babies if their mothers take the drug during pregnancy.
Premature babies are at high risk for cerebral palsy, an often devastating movement disorder caused by brain damage before, during or after birth, says study co-author John Thorp, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . About one-third of cerebral palsy cases are caused by early preterm birth, he says.
Giving magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, could save many children from the condition, Thorp says. Doctors regularly use the drug to halt contractions when women go into labor very early. The drug is found in virtually every labor and delivery department and costs just pennies a dose, he says.
Magnesium sulfate (or sulphate) is a chemical compound containing magnesium and sulfate, with the formula MgSO4. It is often encountered as the heptahydrate, MgSO4·7H2O, commonly called Epsom salts. Anhydrous magnesium sulfate is used as a drying agent. Since the anhydrous form is hygroscopic (readily absorbs water from the air) and therefore harder to weigh accurately, the hydrate is often preferred when preparing solutions, for example in medical preparations. Epsom salts have traditionally been used as a component of bath salts.
Oral magnesium sulfate, or magnesium hydroxide, is commonly used as a saline laxative. Epsom salts are also available in a gel form for topical application in treating aches and pains.
Indications for its use are:
Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium concentrations in the blood).
Magnesium Sulfate is the first-line antidysrhythmic agent for Torsades de pointes in cardiac arrest under the 2005 ECC guidelines.
As a bronchodilator after beta-agonist and anticholinergic agents have been tried, e.g. in severe exacerbations of asthma. In fact, recent studies have revealed that magnesium sulfate can be nebulized to reduce the symptoms of acute asthma (Blitz et al 2005). In the UK, it is commonly administered via the intravenous route for the management of severe asthma attacks.
Users of Epsom Salts in the gel form have reported significant and lasting reduction of pain associated with fybromyalgia and osteoporosis.
A 2004 research study by Rosemary Waring at the School of Biosciences, Birmingham University, UK has shown that both magnesium and sulphate are absorbed through the skin when bathing in 1% solution.
Magnesium sulfate can be used to treat pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.
Magnesium sulfate can also delay labor in the case of premature labor, to delay Preterm birth.
Solutions of sulfate salts such as Epsom salts may be given as first aid for barium poisoning.
Magnesium sulfate paste has been used as an agent for drawing (dehydrating) boils and carbuncles.
Magnesium Sulfate solution has also been shown to be an effective aid in the fight against blemishes and acne when applied directly to problematic areas, usually in poultice form.
Magnesium Sulfate when used through soaking, can soothe muscle pains and help improve rough patches in the skin.