High Magnesium Levels: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Magnesium is the fourth most commonly found mineral in your body. Your bones will carry as much as half of your magnesium. It is also integral to keep your blood pressure regulated, and improve your immune system, nerve function, muscle movement, blood sugar and your metabolism. If you have a high level of magnesium in your blood, you may have hypermagnesemia, which is an electrolyte imbalance.

What Are the Causes of High Magnesium Levels?

It is most common to see hypermagnesemia when a person has kidney failure. But there are other less common causes that should also be considered.

Kidney Failure

Kidneys are excellent at the job of eliminating magnesium, making hypermagnesemia uncommon. Quite often, most of your magnesium gets passed through your urine and magnesium reabsorption is reduced. When in kidney failure, several renal processes can be affected, making magnesium unable to be excreted from the body. This is more common with renal disease at the end stages, especially when urine output is decreased. This is also called oliguria.

There are other cases where people in serious renal failure do not develop hypermagnesemia. If found, it tends to be on the mild side. It generally happens when a person is getting more magnesium through medication without attention. These medications include laxatives, antacids and lithium. It should be noted that those on dialysis are less likely to develop hypermagnesemia.

Other Conditions

In addition to kidney failure, there are other causes of hypermagnesemia, such as:

  • Depression
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia
  • Addison disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Foods with High Magnesium Levels

It isn’t easy to get a diet that is too heavy in magnesium, but it is possible. This is especially true with patients that have kidney function problems and consume foods with high amounts of magnesium. Some of these foods are often healthy, so some patients will consume them without realizing the problem they can pose. These foods include:

  • Wheat bran
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat germ
  • Mixed nuts
  • Bran flakes
  • Shredded wheat
  • Oatmeal

What Are the Symptoms of Hypermagnesemia?

Many symptoms of excessive magnesium will show with a disturbance in the nerves and muscle of the cardiovascular system. There can be a range of other ways it affects the body as well.

Some symptoms and signs of high magnesium levels include:

  • Irregular heart-beat (arrhythmia)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Low heart rate(bradycardia)
  • Skin flushing
  • Difficult or slow breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Facial paresthesia
  • Decreased tendon reflexes
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Blood clotting trouble
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy

If hypermagnesemia becomes severe, it could cause:

  • Cardiac arrest or complete heart block
  • Dilated and fixed pupils
  • Drowsiness
  • Apnea or temporarily ceasing to breathe

Call your doctor if:

  • You have sick stomach, or throw up.
  • Your face is flushed.
  • You are concerned or have questions about your health and care.

Seek immediate care if:

  • You have an irregular or slower than normal heartbeat.
  • You are very tired.
  • You feel lightheaded, faint or dizzy.
  • You feel slow or weak.
  • Your breathing is shallow or seems difficult.

How Is Hypermagnesemia Diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose hypermagnesemia is through the use of blood tests or similar diagnostic tools. It can be easy to conclude high magnesium levels in a person with kidney disease, but diagnostics must be performed for a true reading of electrolyte imbalance. For healthy adults, a normal blood plasma range is between 1.7 and 2.3 mg/dL. The severity of Hypermagnesemia is shown in the table.


4.8-7.2 mg/dL

2-3 mmol/L


7.2-12 mb/dL

3-5 mmol/L


Over 12mb/dL

5 mmol/L

How to Treat Hypermagnesemia

There are many levels of hypermagnesemia, based on how severe a case it is. With each level, symptoms can be worse, and therefore treatments and cures will be different.

Before starting on medications, you can explore your self-treatment options. The first option is to remove it from your diet completely. This means removing any supplements, antacids, laxatives or foods that contain magnesium. Diuretics can also cause trouble with patients who don’t have normal kidney function, so should only be used with caution. If you don’t have severe hypermagnesemia, this can be an excellent way of reducing your risk.

Another option is to utilize a calcium gluconate injection. This is a known way of curing hypermagnesemia. This will be done through your doctor. If the condition is severe, renal dialysis may be recommended. This will lessen or cure your hypermagnesemia, depending on the individual case. The best way to know which treatment is right for you is to visit your doctor and discuss your options.

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