DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide)

background

Dimethyl sulfoxide (C2H6OS), or DMSO, is a sulfur-containing organic compound. DMSO occurs naturally in vegetables, fruits, grains, and animal products. DMSO is formed as a by-product of paper manufacturing and is used as an industrial solvent.
DMSO is available for both non-medicinal and medicinal uses. The major use of DMSO is to relieve symptoms of interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder infection). Also, research suggests the potential benefit of DMSO for complex regional pain syndrome.
Strong evidence for other uses is lacking. DMSO should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, due to the potential toxic and adverse effects associated with it.

Related Terms

C2H6OS, dimethyl sulphoxide, dimethylis sulfoxidum, methyl sulfoxide methyl sulphoxide, NSC-763, SQ-9453, Rimso-50®, sulphinybismethane.

evidence table

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.
 
Interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder infection) (Grade: B)
DMSO is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for interstitial cystitis when administered into the bladder by a qualified healthcare professional. DMSO may work when other treatments have failed. Additional research is needed on this topic.
Amyloidosis (protein build-up in organs) (Grade: C)
DMSO may change the course of amyloidosis if treatment is started early. However, scientific support is lacking for this claim and additional research is needed on this topic.
Anesthesia (for kidney and gallbladder stone removal) (Grade: C)
Therapy with sound waves is used to break down kidney or gallbladder stones so that they can be passed in the urine. DMSO given with a pain reliever may help reduce the pain of this procedure. Also, the diuretic, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and antioxidant effects of DMSO may be beneficial for stone removal. However, more research is needed in this area.
Cancer (Grade: C)
DMSO given through the vein with sodium bicarbonate improved cancer pain that lacked a response to other treatments in people with end-stage cancer. In limited research, DMSO was given in combination with laser therapy and other chemicals for skin cancer, so the effects of DMSO were unclear. Further research is needed in this area.
Diabetic ulcers (Grade: C)
Currently, sufficient scientific evidence is lacking for or against the use of DMSO for diabetic ulcers. Additional research is needed on this topic.
Duodenal ulcers (ulcer of upper intestine) (Grade: C)
In human research, DMSO improved healing and decreased the reappearance of duodenal ulcers, especially when used with acid-blocking drugs (such as cimetidine). Further research is needed to draw conclusions.
Extravasation (drug accidentally going outside of a vein) (Grade: C)
DMSO applied to the skin may prevent skin damage after anti-cancer drug extravasation. It can be applied alone or with steroids. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Osteoarthritis (Grade: C)
In human research, DMSO had mixed results for improving osteoarthritis. Further research is needed.
Rheumatoid arthritis (Grade: C)
Limited research had shown that DMSO may aid with rheumatoid arthritis when applied to the skin. Additional research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.
Scleroderma (hard skin) (Grade: C)
Limited research has shown that topical DMSO lacks an effect on scleroderma, a disease causing hard skin build-up. Additional research is necessary before conclusions can be drawn.
Shingles (Grade: C)
DMSO is used as the carrier for idoxuridine. Research suggests that idoxuridine in DMSO when applied to the skin is effective in the treating shingles. DMSO was also used as the inactive treatment in human research. The effects of DMSO alone are not clear and may be lacking. Further research is needed.
Skin ulcers (Grade: C)
Based on early research, DMSO does not help to prevent skin ulcers (such as bed sores) when applied on the skin. More research is needed.
Surgical skin flap ischemia (lack of blood flow to skin) (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that DMSO improves the lack of blood flow (ischemia) to surgically attached skin flaps. More research is needed to confirm these results.
Tendonopathies (tendon injuries) (Grade: C)
In human research, DMSO had a positive effect for acute tendonopathies. Additional research is needed on this topic.
Intracranial pressure (pressure inside the skull) (Grade: D)
DMSO has conflicting evidence for treating high pressure in the skull. Additional research is needed on this topic. Until more data is available, neurosurgeons are advised against using DMSO for treating high pressure inside the skull.