Chelation therapy is the practice of giving an individual metal-binding chemicals to treat medical conditions. This type of therapy has been used to treat MS patients. In the United States, it is estimated that tens of thousands of people currently use chelation therapy to treat MS and other conditions.
In chelation therapy, a metal-binding chemical is administered intravenously (IV). Commonly the chemical used is ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). EDTA chelates, or strongly binds, potentially harmful metals. These bound metals are then excreted in an individual’s urine. Frequently, vitamin and mineral supplements are given in conjunction with the EDTA. In a typical course of treatment, 20-30 infusions vare given over the course of a few months. This type of treatment has been used to treat heavy-metal toxicity from lead and other metals.
In addition to IV administration, some chelation products may be taken orally. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that oral chelation products have no proven therapeutic effect and should not be used.
Evaluation in MS and Other Conditions
Some have suggested that chelation therapy is beneficial for the treatment of MS. Others have advocated its use in heart disease to remove calcium from plaques on blood vessels. Chelation therapy advocates have also suggested it be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and peripheral vascular disease.
There have been no well-designed studies demonstrating benefits for people with MS, heart disease, or peripheral vascular disease. Limited research has suggested possible benefits for stroke patients, but more studies must be conducted to provide conclusive results. The only condition clearly indicated for chelation therapy is heavy-metal toxicity from lead, arsenic, or other metals.
Many potential side effects exist with chelation therapy. These include anemia, irregular heart rhythms, difficulty breathing, bone marrow damage, kidney damage, low blood pressure, low blood sugar (glucose), bleeding, and low blood calcium. Inflammation and swelling at the sites used for the IV are also possible. In rare cases, chelation therapy has led to death.
Chelation therapy is unproven as a treatment for MS. There are not any well-conducted clinical or scientific studies that indicate that chelation therapy is beneficial in treating MS or MS-associated symptoms. The procedure is also very expensive and may produce serious side effects.
References and Additional Reading
Bowling AC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007, pp. 68-69.
Cassileth BR. The Alternative Medicine Handbook. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998, pp. 152–153, 176–178.
Ernst E, ed. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An -Based Approach. Edinburgh: Mosby, 2001, pp. 43–44.
Kowalak JP, Mills EJ, eds. Professional Guide to Complementary and Alternative Therapies. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Publishing, 2001, pp. 138–140.
Navarra T. The Encyclopedia of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. New York: Checkmark Books. 2005, p. 26–27.
Spencer JW, Jacobs JJ. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. St. Louis: Mosby, 2003, pp. 156–157, 213–214.