What is Hypomagnesemia?

Hypomagnesemia is a medical condition characterized by an abnormally low serum level of magnesium (Mg). Magnesium is an essential mineral for the body and plays an important role in many different processes. These include nerve function, muscle function, metabolism, and energy production. In the United States, magnesium deficiency is estimated to occur in 12 to 19% of adults. Low magnesium levels can cause a variety of symptoms and can increase the risk of certain conditions.

Causes of Hypomagnesemia

The most common cause of hypomagnesemia is inadequate intake of magnesium from the diet. Foods that are rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Magnesium can also be found in some dairy products, fish, and fortified cereals. Insufficient dietary intake is more likely in people who follow a restricted or unbalanced diet. Other causes of hypomagnesemia include:

  • Kidney disease: Kidneys play an important role in magnesium homeostasis. When they are not functioning properly, they may excrete too much magnesium in the urine, leading to hypomagnesemia.
  • Medications: Diuretics, antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, and some antifungals can cause magnesium to be excreted in the urine, leading to magnesium deficiency.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Certain conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, malabsorption, and heavy alcohol use can lead to magnesium deficiency.
  • Excessive sweating: Heavy exercise, sauna use, and hot weather can cause excessive sweating that can lead to magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of Hypomagnesemia

The symptoms of hypomagnesemia will vary depending on the severity of the deficiency. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

Treatment of Hypomagnesemia

Treatment for hypomagnesemia will depend on the cause. Generally, treatment involves increasing dietary intake of magnesium or taking supplements. Severe cases may require intravenous (IV) magnesium. Follow-up care may be needed if the cause of the hypomagnesemia is not identified or treated.