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Chapter 9

Silver and Organs of Special Sense

Silver has not been shown to be injurious to the brain, peripheral nervous system of organs of special sense in human patients or in experimental animal studies. The blood brain barrier is highly effective in preventing the deposition and accumulation of Ag+-complexes or silver precipitates in all regions of the brain or peripheral nerves; inert precipitates are enclosed within lysosomal vacuoles. Cases of suspected silver-induced paralysis, muscular weakness and behavioural abnormality are ascribed to other disease factors or idiopathic causes. Silver coated intracerebral catheters have not been associated with pathological changes along insertion tracts and have a successful record of use in ventricular drainage in cases of juvenile hydrocephaly. Biofilm formation remains a clinical problem.

Colloidal silver ingestion and inhalation of silver dusts have been associated with profound argyria with deposition of silver sulfide precipitates around peripheral nerves and sensory nerves of the tongue, ear and nasal mucosae, but no tangible evidence seen of silver-impaired sensory perception or loss of taste or smell. Silver acetate is used as an antismoking remedy; the foul taste experienced in the presence of tobacco smoke is an effective deterrent.

The eye is a target organ for deposition of silver sulfide, with the cornea and conjunctiva most vulnerable. It is a more sensitive indication of silver exposure than argyria although frequently the two conditions occur simultaneously. Apart from reduced night vision attributable to silver sulfide particles obscuring the passage of light rays to the retina, the eye is functionally normal as shown by electro-retinography and other physiological tests. Silver precipitates may occur in the conjunctiva and cornea and peripheral areas from use of silver containing cosmetic and therapeutic products, with no obvious toxicological sequalae. Argyrosis and argyria in the eye and associated tissues are long lasting and cosmetically undesirable, but not health threatening.

Print publication date: 07 May 2010
Copyright year: 2010
Print ISBN: 978-1-84973-006-8
PDF eISBN: 978-1-84973-179-9
From the book series:
Issues in Toxicology