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What Are the Medical Uses of Phosphate Salts?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Phosphate salts are used in a number of medical treatments. The most common use is to correct a deficiency of phosphate in a patient, though the salts can also help correct a surplus of calcium. Less commonly, the salts may be used to prepare a patient for surgery, to relieve the symptoms of heartburn, and to control hypersensitivity in the teeth and gums.

In most people, enough phosphate is absorbed into the body from foods that naturally containing it. Phosphate regulates cell metabolism and assists the body with the intake of various vitamins. There are a number of negative effects that occur if there is not enough phosphate in the blood. Phosphate salts may be administered to patients to correct this imbalance.

Prior to surgery, phosphate salts are often administered to clear out a patient's intestinal tract. This can help prevent complications in a variety of surgeries, especially surgeries that involve the digestive tract, itself. Phosphate draws fluid into the intestines, flushing out anything within them.

Sodium or potassium phosphate salts can be used to lower the amount of calcium in the blood. Though calcium is a mineral that is needed by the body, too much of it can create unusual bone growth, such as rickets in children. It also reduces the risk of kidney stones by absorbing extra calcium that could otherwise create a deposit of calcium in the kidneys.

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Though the effectiveness of phosphate salts in the treatment of heartburn has not been proven, these salts are sometimes used to treat this disorder. In most cases, patients with mild or occasional heartburn are given calcium to help absorb the extra stomach acid. Sometimes, patients may be unable to ingest additional calcium because it causes a surplus of this mineral. Patients with preexisting conditions, such as kidney stones, should not take extra calcium because it could exacerbate the condition, so phosphate salts may be used instead.

It is also possible to apply phosphate salts directly to the gums in the form of a tooth paste. When used in this form, the salts may help decrease the sensitivity of the patient's teeth. There has not been much research done on this use of phosphate salts, however and more will need to be conducted to determine how effective it may be.

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