Topical silver therapy

Author: Jenny Chung, Final Year Medical Student, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Chief Editor: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, October 2015.

What is topical silver therapy?

Topical silver therapy is the use of silver in topical preparations applied to the skin, and wound dressings containing or coated with silver.

The most commonly used topical silver preparations are:

Nanocrystalline silver dressings have been designed for sustained release of silver, reducing the need for frequent re-application of silver preparations or dressings. Silver dressings include:

How does topical silver therapy work?

Silver, in its ion form Ag+, has a broad-spectrum antimicrobial/antiseptic effect. It is thought to bind to bacterial cell walls and/or interfere with cell division and DNA replication.

What skin conditions respond to topical silver therapy?

Topical silver therapy can be used on acute thermal burns, other contaminated or infected wounds and chronic ulcers to prevent or treat infections and promote wound healing.

How effective is topical silver therapy?

Silver has been used to prevent transmission of infection dating back to 4000 BC. To date, silver dressings and preparations have not been found to be superior in efficacy or cost compared to topical non-silver therapy.

Preventing wound infections

In thermal burns, nanocrystalline dressings may be superior to topical silver preparations in reducing the incidence of infections, cost and pain. But silver sulfadiazine cream may increase the risk of infection, delay wound healing and be more painful when applied.

In chronic ulcers, silver dressings may help reduce the size of the ulcer short term and reduce the burden of bacterial overgrowth.

Treating wound infections

To date, there is no evidence that silver dressings reduce the time of healing or reduce the need for systemic antibiotics in contaminated or infected wounds.

Side effects of topical silver therapy

Side effects of topical silver therapy include:

Toxicity of topical silver therapy

How to use topical silver therapy

Related information

Make a donation

Donate Today

Help us to update and maintain DermNet New Zealand

The History Of DermNet

Watch Dr Amanda Oakley presenting 'The History Of DermNet NZ' at The International Society Of Teledermatology.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
DermNet NZ Newsletter