Silver sulfadiazine is a combination of micronized silver and sulfadiazine. Micronized silver is a natural antibiotic material, and sulfadiazine is a sulfonamide antibiotic. Both compounds are effective against yeast infections of the skin, as well. This medicine combination is available in cream and liquid forms for topical application. It is typically used to treat second- and third-degree burns and ulcers of the skin.
The cream or liquid is applied in a thin layer over the affected area. The area is then covered with a wound dressing. Silver sulfadiazine is reapplied at each dressing change. It can be used freely on damaged tissue as it does not promote antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Although this medicine prevents the infection of vulnerable injuries, such as burns, it can extend healing times.
There are several advantages to using silver sulfadiazine as compared to other topical antibiotic preparations. It is effective against a wide range of pathogenic bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. Serious side effects are rare. The medicine can be applied to large areas of skin, such as with seriously burned patients, with a low risk of toxicity. It does not absorb deeply into the skin and so does not normally have a systemic effect on patients.
Most side effects associated with silver sulfadiazine are superficial. The micronized silver in the compound can result in blue or dark-colored scars. The bluing or darkening of the skin from exposure to silver is a condition called argyria. A slight stinging or burning sensation may occur after application of the cream or liquid. Patients allergic to either silver or sulfa-based compounds can experience serious reactions and should not use this medicine.
Unfortunately, silver sulfadiazine has been shown to cause transient leukopenia in some patients. This condition is reversed when the medicine is discontinued. Occasionally, the surface of the skin heals faster than the deeper layers of injured tissue. An escharotomy, or surgical incision, of the healed skin may be necessary to relieve pressure and allow the underlying tissue to heal. Serious side effects are rare and are usually attributed to the sulfadiazine.
The antibiotic properties of silver are widely utilized in the medical field. Silver-impregnated socks work to prevent athlete’s foot infections. Some wound dressings and gauzes are treated with micronized silver. Several industrial cleaning solutions, made specifically for use in hospitals, contain silver as an ingredient. Although micronized silver and sulfadiazine are each effective against bacteria, they are more effective when combined.