A striking staining of the skin
caused by the slow deposit of silver
in the body's tissues.
Though very rarely a lethal or dangerous condition, the transformation of normal healthy skin into a grey or blue color (often described as "slate
-grey" or "ashen
") is irreversible
and can be devastating to the social lives of those afflicted.
The staining can manifest itself in localized patches of the skin and mucus membranes, or throughout the entire skin surface and internal organs. The exposure level and duration of exposure necessary to induce argyria vary widely, often depending on the source of the silver and its route of entry into the body. The most common route of exposure is workplace related: individuals involved in mining, electroplating, metallurgy and even photo processing are exposed to high amounts of ionic silver and metallic silver throughout their lives. In addition, the continued medicinal use of colloidal silver has also been known to cause argyria (as in the case of Rosemary Jacobs, perhaps the most famous argyria sufferer).
Post mortem study of tissue from argryia sufferers indicates that the silver collects in the extracellular matrix of the dermal tissue layers in the form of ionic silver granules. There is no known cure for this condition, and the only treatment, topical hyrdoquinone, yields only a mild lessening of the stain. Interestingly enough, in some cases the staining is limited only to areas of the skin that get exposed to the sun, and it has been shown that the silver granules can become enveloped by phagocytotic cells of the immune system and can contain other compounds such as sulfur and selenium. This suggests that the silver deposition and staining may be mediated by complex biochemical reactions that are as-yet uncharacterized.
Some information provided by the Dermatology resources at emedicine.com