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What Is DMSO?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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In medicine, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a compound that has been used to treat a vast range of health conditions, from bladder infections to skin inflammation to high blood pressure. Prescription DMSO may be given intravenously, orally, or topically. Several manufacturers produce over-the-counter (OTC) varieties of the drug as well, though in many countries non-prescription versions are not approved or regulated by government product safety boards. Doctors can help their patients determine whether or not the medicine is appropriate for their specific conditions.

Before DMSO gained popularity for its medicinal properties, it was used in industry as a solvent in chemical and manufacturing plants. Doctors and medical scientists began exploring the biological applications of the compound in the 1960s, discovering that it has the unique ability to penetrate layers of skin tissue without causing irritation or damage. DMSO was found effective in helping other topical medicines, such as antibacterial and antifungal solutions, reach their destinations without affecting the skin. In oral or intravenous form, it can promote the absorption of medicines into internal organs.

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The compound is frequently used in health-care settings as a drug delivery system, though it can also act as an effective medication itself. Prescription DMSO is often administered intravenously as an anti-inflammatory agent for patients with severe bladder infections and blood pressure issues. The drug's efficacy for treating other conditions has not been sufficiently confirmed in clinical studies, but many doctors believe that it may be a promising remedy for decreasing nerve pain, healing wounds, relieving headaches, and managing joint pain.

When DMSO is used as directed by a doctor, the chances of adverse side effects are very low. The most frequently reported side effects include localized drying of skin tissue, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Rarely, a person can have an allergic reaction to the medicine that can cause widespread skin inflammation and breathing problems. Some studies suggest that large quantities of DMSO can lead to future liver and kidney problems.

DMSO is available in non-prescription form in many specialty shops and vitamin retailers. Physicians generally advise against using OTC creams or supplements without first consulting with health-care specialists due to insufficient research regarding the possible effects of the drug. OTC solutions can vary in their percentages of active ingredients, and using too much of the medicine could potentially do more harm than good to the body. In addition, the compound may increase or change the effects of other medications, leading to unpredictable side effects.

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ZipLine
Post 4

I'm too scared to use DMSO. I heard that if everything is not sterile while using it, bacteria and viruses will get absorbed into the skin along with the DMSO liquid.

ddljohn
Post 3

@burcinc-- I have used DMSO cream a few times for arthritis pain. It worked very well and I didn't have any side effects. The only annoying part is that it smells very bad. People around me were complaining of the garlic smell for several days after I applied it. I also felt like I had eaten a hand-full of fresh garlic. My mouth tasted like this.

This is the only reason why I stopped using DMSO.

burcinc
Post 2

As far as I know, the FDA has approved DMSO for only one thing-- interstital cystitis. I have no idea why this drug is available over-the-counter and used for many different things because its risks are relatively unknown. There are no conclusive studies done on it.

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