Hypomagnesemia happens when you have a low level of magnesium, an electrolyte, in your blood. It can be mild or severe and is treatable. It often happens alongside low calcium and potassium levels, which are also electrolytes.
Hypomagnesemia, also known as magnesium deficiency, happens when you have a lower-than-normal level of magnesium in your blood. It can be mild or severe.
Magnesium is an electrolyte that’s a key part of many bodily reactions that affect cellular function, nerve conduction and more. Your brain, heart and muscles rely heavily on magnesium to do their job.
Magnesium has a direct effect on the balance of other electrolytes, including sodium, calcium and potassium. Hypomagnesemia often happens alongside hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels) and hypokalemia (low blood potassium levels).
It should be noted that while most of your body’s magnesium is stored in your bones, it’s only the magnesium dissolved in extracellular fluid (mostly blood plasma) that’s available for use by cells and organs.
Three organs are responsible for maintaining normal magnesium levels, including your:
If there’s an issue in any step of this process, it can cause hypomagnesemia.
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Hypomagnesemia can affect anyone at any age. People with certain health conditions and in certain situations are more likely to have hypomagnesemia. It occurs in:
Hypomagnesemia can present in many different ways, but it mainly affects your neuromuscular system and heart. Some people don’t have any symptoms (are asymptomatic).
Symptoms of mild hypomagnesemia include:
Symptoms of severe hypomagnesemia include
It’s important to seek medical care if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
Hypomagnesemia usually happens due to one of the following:
Nutritional deficiencies due to poor intake of magnesium include:
Deficiencies due to poor absorption of magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract include:
Excessive losses of magnesium from the kidneys (pee) include:
Excessive losses of magnesium through the gastrointestinal tract (poop):
This can happen in people with:
If you’re experiencing symptoms of hypomagnesemia, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and medical history.
They’ll likely order a blood test to check your magnesium level. Normal magnesium levels are usually between 1.46 and 2.68 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
They may also order the following tests:
Once your provider confirms you have hypomagnesemia, they can usually determine the underlying cause based on your medical history and test results. If they’re unsure, they may need to run more tests to help diagnose the cause.
Treatment for hypomagnesemia depends on how mild or severe it is and the underlying cause.
If the hypomagnesemia is mild, your healthcare provider will likely recommend magnesium tablets taken by mouth.
If the hypomagnesemia is severe, you’ll likely be in a hospital and receive fluids and magnesium through an IV.
Your provider will also prescribe a treatment plan to manage the underlying cause.
Treating and/or managing underlying conditions that can cause hypomagnesemia can help prevent episodes.
For example, if you have celiac disease, maintaining a strict gluten-free diet can prevent malabsorption (which could cause hypomagnesemia).
However, in some cases, you can’t prevent hypomagnesemia.
The prognosis (outlook) for hypomagnesemia depends on its underlying cause. People who have hypomagnesemia from an identifiable cause have a good prognosis for complete recovery if they receive treatment.
Dangerously low levels of magnesium have the potential to cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of hypomagnesemia, you should see your healthcare provider. If you have severe symptoms, such as seizures or an abnormal heartbeat, call 911 or get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
If you have a chronic condition that can lead to hypomagnesemia, such as Crohn’s disease or an inherited kidney (renal) tubular disorder, it’s important to see your healthcare team regularly to make sure your treatment is working and your magnesium levels are in a healthy range.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Getting a diagnosis can be stressful. Know that hypomagnesemia is treatable and that symptoms usually go away once your magnesium levels are back to normal with treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider questions about hypomagnesemia and its management.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/14/2022.
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