Symptoms Of Lead Poisoning
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Because the toxic effects of lead exposure gradually accumulates in the body, the symptoms of lead poisoning may be difficult to detect. The exposure may not be in an obvious source commonly associated with lead and often cannot be detected simply by looking at it. The medical term for this lead poisoning is "plumbism."
Children with chronic low blood lead levels who may not have obvious symptoms of lead poisoning may have learning problems and be smaller in size than children of their age who do not have low to moderate levels of lead poisoning. Studies have shown that declines in IQ can even be seen in children with blood lead concentrations below 10 micro grams of lead per deciliter of blood.
Children swallow chips of lead paint, putting them into their mouths because of its sweet taste; they play in dirt near roadways contaminated by vehicles that have burned leaded fuel; they drink water from an old home's leaded pipes; they play with imported costume jewelry made of lead, or sometimes just inhale the dust created in the course of lead abatement. The lead builds up in the most vulnerable parts of their developing bodies. Typical pediatric symptoms of lead poisoning may include:
A gradual loss of appetite and its resulting weight loss
A sluggishness or lack of energy and unusually pale skin tones
Irritability and general crankiness
Stomach aches, vomiting and/or constipation
Learning difficulties, including speech and behavior problems
Where children are exposed the contaminants through hazards like paint chips and industrial areas near parks, adults are generally exposed through occupational hazards, the use of imported foods, cosmetics, homeopathic medicines and drinking water from old lead pipes. Adult symptoms are also different, but no less serious:
Numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, and/or toes
Digestion and nerve disorders
Vision and hearing problems
High blood pressure
Memory loss or difficulties
Depression or other mood disorders
Low sperm count or abnormal sperm in men, miscarriage and still birth in women
Testing for lead poisoning is managed through a simple blood test. This should be done every year for young children. For older children and adults, testing should be done whenever there is believed exposure or symptoms. If a patient's insurance company does not cover the cost of this test, many county health departments will do the conduct free of charge.
Without treatment, some of the symptoms may become part of a permanent illness leading to seizures, unconsciousness and even death. With early diagnosis, however, many of the symptoms can be diminished or eliminated. First line treatment, of course, is to eliminate the exposure found in household areas, like peeling paint or other contaminated items. In the more severe cases, medication may be administered to help the body eliminate the lead through urination.
Adults who believe they may be exposed to any quantity of lead while at work must take the necessary precautions. Changing into clean clothes right after work, washing your work clothes separately from other clothes, washing your hands and face at the end of your shift, and showering as soon as you get home will limit the amount of lead exposure you take hom