EDTA Overview Information
EDTA is a prescription medicine, given by injection into the vein (intravenously) or into the muscle (intramuscularly).
Intravenous EDTA is used to treat lead poisoning and brain damage caused by lead poisoning; to evaluate a patient's response to therapy for suspected lead poisoning; to treat poisonings by radioactive materials such as plutonium, thorium, uranium, and strontium; for removing copper in patients with Wilson's disease; and for treating high levels of calcium.
EDTA is also used intravenously for heart and blood vessel conditions including irregular heartbeat due to exposure to chemicals called cardiac glycosides, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), chest pain (angina), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood circulation problems such as intermittent claudication and Raynaud's syndrome.
Other intravenous uses include treatment of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, an eye condition called macular degeneration, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and skin conditions including scleroderma and psoriasis.
EDTA is also used intramuscularly for lead poisoning and related brain damage.
EDTA is sometimes used as an ointment for skin irritations produced by metals such as chromium, nickel, and copper.
Eye drops containing EDTA are used to treat calcium deposits in the eye.
In foods, EDTA bound to iron is used to “fortify” grain-based products such as breakfast cereals and cereal bars. EDTA is also used in calcium and sodium compounds to preserve food; and to promote the color, texture, and flavor of food.
In manufacturing, EDTA is used in calcium and sodium compounds to improve stability in pharmaceutical products, detergents, liquid soaps, shampoos, agricultural chemical sprays, oil emulsion devices, contact lens cleaners and cosmetics. It is also used in certain blood collection tubes used by medical laboratories.
How does it work?
EDTA is a chemical that binds and holds on to (chelates) minerals and metals such as chromium, iron, lead, mercury, copper, aluminum, nickel, zinc, calcium, cobalt, manganese, and magnesium. When they are bound, they can't have any effects on the body and they are removed from the body.
- Treating lead poisoning. Administering EDTA intravenously and intramuscularly is effective for treating lead poisoning and brain damage caused by lead exposure. The calcium disodium form of EDTA is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these uses. Treatment with calcium disodium EDTA improves symptoms of lead poisoning such as abdominal pain, fatigue, constipation, and loss of appetite. It also seems to slow progression of kidney failure in patients who have had long-term lead poisoning. However, EDTA does not seem to be effective for diagnosing lead poisoning.
Likely Effective for:
- Emergency treatment of life-threatening high calcium levels (hypercalcemia), when given intravenously. The disodium form of EDTA is approved by the FDA for this use, but healthcare providers generally prefer other methods of treatment that are less likely to cause kidney side effects.
- Treating heart rhythm problems caused by drugs such as digoxin (Lanoxin). The disodium form of EDTA is approved by the FDA for this use, but healthcare providers generally prefer other treatments such as lidocaine or phenytoin (Dilantin) because they are considered safer and more effective.
Possibly Effective for:
- Treating calcium deposits in the eye. After appropriate preparation of the eye, a single application of the disodium form of EDTA can clear calcium deposits in the eye and improve eyesight.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Hardened skin (scleroderma).
Likely Ineffective for:
- Treating coronary heart disease (CHD).
- Treating peripheral arterial occlusive disease.
- Poisoning by radioactive products.
- Wilson's disease.
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
- High cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Raynaud's syndrome.
- Vision problems.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Parkinson's disease.
- Chest pain (angina).
- Other conditions.
EDTA Side Effects & Safety
EDTA is safe when used as a prescription medicine, as eye drops, and in small amounts as a preservative in foods. EDTA can cause abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, low blood pressure, skin problems, and fever.
It is UNSAFE to use more than 3 grams of EDTA per day, or to take it longer than 5 to 7 days. Too much can cause kidney damage, dangerously low calcium levels, and death.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: EDTA seems to be safe when used in food amounts. The safety of larger amounts is unknown.
Asthma: Nebulizer solutions containing disodium EDTA as a preservative can cause the breathing tubes to narrow in some people with asthma. The size of the dose determines the amount of the narrowing.
Heart rhythm problems: EDTA might make heart rhythm problems worse.
Diabetes: EDTA might interfere with blood sugar control because it can interact with insulin.
Low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia): EDTA can decrease serum calcium levels, making hypocalcemia worse.
Low potassium (hypokalemia): EDTA can bind with potassium and increase the amount of potassium that is flushed out in the urine. This might cause potassium levels to drop too low, especially in people who have low levels to begin with. If you have this problem, don’t use EDTA.
Low magnesium levels in the blood (hypomagnesemia): EDTA can bind with magnesium and increase the amount of magnesium that is flushed out in the urine. This might cause magnesium levels to drop too low, especially in people who have low levels to begin with. If you have this problem, don’t use EDTA.
Liver problems and hepatitis: EDTA might make liver disease worse. Avoid using EDTA if you have a liver condition.
Kidney problems: EDTA can harm the kidney and might make kidney disease worse. EDTA doses should be reduced in patients with kidney disease. Avoid using EDTA if you have severe kidney disease or kidney failure.
Seizures (epilepsy): There is some concern that EDTA might increase the risk of seizure in people with epilepsy or in people who tend to have seizures. EDTA can cause severe decreases in blood levels of calcium, and this can cause a seizure.
Tuberculosis (TB): Tuberculosis is a lung infection that is caused by particular bacteria. Sometimes the body is able to “wall off” pockets of infection, making the infection inactive. The bacteria remain alive behind the wall of scar tissue, but they can’t get out to cause illness or infect other people. This scar tissue frequently contains calcium. There is some concern that EDTA might be able to bind the calcium in the scar tissue, causing the “walls” to give way and release bacteria. Don’t use EDTA if you have active TB or had TB in the past.
Major Interaction Do not take this combination
- Insulin interacts with EDTA
EDTA can decrease blood sugar. Insulin is also used to decrease blood sugar. Taking EDTA along with insulin can cause serious decreases in your blood sugar. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your insulin might need to be changed.
- Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with EDTA
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. EDTA has been reported to decrease the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin). Decreasing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) might increase the risk of clotting. It is unclear why this interaction might occur. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Water pills (Diuretic drugs) interacts with EDTA
Large amounts of EDTA can decrease potassium levels in the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking EDTA along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.
Some "water pills" that can deplete potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For calcium deposits on the cornea of the eye: Healthcare providers use EDTA as part of a procedure.
- For lead poisoning and also for high levels of calcium in the blood: Healthcare providers give EDTA intravenously (by IV).
- For lead poisoning: Healthcare providers give EDTA in a shot (by injection).