Before the invention of antibiotics, silver was used widely in hospitals in the form of metallic silver, silver nitrate, and silver sulfadiazine. It was used for the treatment of burns, wounds, and bacterial and viral infections. Antibiotics replaced silver treatment in medical practice. With recent concerns over antibiotic resistance, there is renewed interest in medical use of silver.
Colloidal silver is a mixture of silver particles in a base of dispersed particles. Colloidal silver is marketed as a health supplement to treat diabetes, AIDS, cancer, sinus infection, acne, wounds, food poisoning, tooth decay, urinary tract infections, and other conditions.
Silver nanoparticles have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. Silver nanoparticles are generally smaller than 100 nanometers and contain 20-15,000 silver atoms. Silver nanoparticles are used in electronics, biosensing, clothing, the food industry, paints, sunscreens, cosmetics, pesticides, water purification systems, cleaning products, bone replacements, heart devices, catheters, and other medical devices.
Silver may be toxic when taken at high doses or for long periods, additional research is needed before conclusions may be drawn for any disease.
Acticoat®, Actisorb™, Ag, Ag+, Aquacel® Ag, argyria, Argyrol®, Askina® Calgitrol® Ag, Atrauman® Ag, collargol, Comfeel® Ag hydrocolloid/Biatain® Ag polyurethane foam, Contreet® foam, electro-colloidal silver, Hydrofiber®, Hydrofiber® Ag, ionic silver, Mepilex® Ag, nanosilver, Physiotulle®-Ag, ProAg catheter, protargol, silver, silver nanoparticles, silver protein, Silvercel®, UrgoCell® Silver.
Selected combination products: MesoSilver™, Silverzone, Utopia Silver.
Note: Silver sulfadiazine and silver nitrate are not included in this monograph.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Limited research suggests that silver nanoparticle gel was more effective than alcohol gel for reducing bacteria. Additionally a wound dressing with silver nanoparticles showed effects against bacteria. Additional research is needed in this area.
Infection (prevention of catheter-related infection)
Early research suggests that a silver protein coating on the flexible tube used for removing fluid from the bladder has reduced infections. Flexible tubes used in surgery to drain infected fluids from the brain have been made with silver nanoparticles. This reduced the risk of infections related to the flexible tubes. Additional research is needed in this area.
Dressings and agents with silver are often used to treat skin ulcers. Although this has not been well studied in humans, evidence suggests that dressings with silver help wounds heal. These dressings may also prevent redness, swelling, and infection. Additional research is needed in this area.
Limited research suggests that wound dressings with silver help wounds heal. These dressings may also prevent redness, swelling, and bacterial infection. Additional research is needed in this area.
Dressings with silver such as Aquacel® Ag or Acticoat® have been used on burn wounds. These dressings have decreased bacteria growth, pain symptoms, and time to healing compared to other therapies. Additional research is needed in this area.
Dental procedures (tooth extraction)
A Gelatamp colloidal silver gelatin sponge prevented negative consequences that happen while having a tooth removed. Additional research is needed in this area.
Skin graft donor wounds
Early research suggests that wound dressings containing silver may help wounds heal. These dressings may also prevent redness, swelling, and infection. There are mixed results for the use of dressings with silver on skin graft donor wounds. Additional research is needed in this area.
Using a drop of 10% silver vitellinate soon after childbirth, did not prevent chlamydia infection in newborns. Povidone-iodine was better than a silver protein solution for redness and swelling of the eye.