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Magnesium (Mg)

A magnesium test checks the level of magnesium in the blood. Magnesium is an important electrolyte needed for proper muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. It also helps the body use energy and is needed to move other electrolytes (potassium and sodium) into and out of cells.

Most of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones and inside the cells. Only a tiny amount of magnesium is normally present in the blood.

Tests for other electrolytes, such as calcium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus, may be done along with a test for magnesium.

Why It Is Done

A test for magnesium is done to:

  • Find a cause for nerve and muscle problems, such as muscle twitches, irritability, and muscle weakness.
  • Find the cause of symptoms such as low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle weakness, and slurred speech.
  • Monitor kidney function.
  • Find the cause of heart problems or trouble breathing, especially in people who have kidney disease.
  • Find the cause of a low calcium or potassium level that is not improving with treatment.
  • Look for changes in magnesium levels caused by medicines, such as diuretics.
  • See if people who have heart problems need extra magnesium. Low magnesium levels can increase the chances of life-threatening heart rhythm problems.
  • Measure levels when magnesium is being given for medical treatment.

How To Prepare

Many medicines may change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. Do not take medicines containing magnesium for at least 3 days before this test. This includes antacids that contain magnesium, laxatives (such as milk of magnesia or Epsom salts), magnesium supplements, and some diuretics.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

The health professional drawing blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then put on a bandage.

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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