Plumbism (Lead Poisoning): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Plumbism (Lead Poisoning): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Lead poisoning, also called as plumbism is a type of metal poisoning caused by lead in the body. Plumbism causes almost 10% of intellectual disability of otherwise unknown cause and can result in behavioral problems.

Exposure to lead can occur by contaminated air, water, dust, food, or consumer products and others. Lead poisoning is preventable and includes individual efforts like removing lead-containing items from home andworkplace, reduce allowable levels in water or soil, and provide for cleanup of contaminated soil.

In 2016 lead was believed to have resulted in 540,000 deaths. It occurs most commonly in the developing world. Lead is also believed to result in 0.6% of the world’s disease burden. Fewer than 1 million cases are reported in India, per year.

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How does Lead Poisoning affect your body?

Lead poisoning can severely affect the brain and nervous system. A low level of lead exposure can cause irreversible brain damage in children while higher levels, in both children and adults are likely to damage the nervous system and kidneys. Elevated lead levels could result in convulsions and even death.

What are the causes of Lead Poisoning?

  • Lead in paint– Lead-based paints for homes, children’s toys and household furniture can cause plumbism, especially in children.
  • Water pipes and imported canned goods– All these lead can release lead particles into tap water and lead in food cans is still not banned in many countries leading to lead-poisoning.
  • Soil– Lead particles from leaded gasoline or paint settle on soil and can last years and is a major problem around highways and in some urban settings.
  • Household dust– Household dust can contain lead particles from lead paint chips or from contaminated soil brought in from outside.
  • Toys– Lead is sometimes found in toys and other products produced abroad, which can cause plumbism in children.
  • Lead bullets– This can lead to exposure.
  • Occupations– People who work in auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting, construction and certain other fields can bring lead-particle to their home through clothes or shoes or bags they use.
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What are the risk factors of Lead Poisoning?

  • Age– Infants and young children are more likely to be exposed to lead due to their habit of chewing paint that flakes off walls and woodwork, and their hands can be contaminated with lead dust. An unborn child can be affected if the mother is exposed to lead during pregnancy.
  • Living in old house-Older homes and buildings often retain remnants of this paint and people renovating are at higher risk.
  • Certain hobbies– Making stained glass, refurnishing old furniture, potteries and some jewelry requires the use of lead solder can put one in contact with layers of lead paint.
  • Living in developing countries– Regarding exposure to lead, developing countries often have less strict rules.
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What are the symptoms of Lead Poisoning?

Lead-poisoning in children can cause:

  • Developmental delay
  • Learning difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures

Lead poisoning in adults can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood disorders
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Decreased quality of sperm
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How is Lead Poisoning diagnosed?

  • Capillary Blood Sample– This method uses a finger prick to take a small sample of blood, making it a relatively simple and easy way to test for high lead levels.
  • Venous Blood Lead Level Testing– For this test, blood is drawn from a vein. This method checks for high lead levels. If a person has a blood lead level of 5 µg/dL, they are considered to have an elevated blood lead level. In cases of high lead levels (45 µg/dL or higher), advanced treatment might be needed, especially in kids.
  • X-Ray – In cases of lead toxicity, elevated blood lead levels, or a history of pica, it’s recommended that an X-ray be taken of the abdomen to check for foreign objects. If solid spots appear on the X-ray signaling materials containing lead, a decontamination procedure to irrigate or flush out, the intestines is done, removing the sources of lead to prevent from being absorbed by the body.
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How to prevent & control Lead Poisoning?

  • Wash hands and toys– To help reduce transfer of contaminated dust or soil, wash your children’s hands after outdoor play, before eating and at bedtime.
  • Clean dusty surfaces– Clean floors with a wet mop and wipe furniture, windowsills and other dusty surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Remove shoes before entering the house-Keeping shoes outside will help keep lead-based soil outside.
  • Run cold water– If you have older plumbing containing lead pipes or fittings, run cold water for at least a minute before using.
  • Prevent children from playing on soil– Provide children with a sandbox that’s covered when not in use.
  • Eat a healthy diet– Regular meals and good nutrition including calcium, vitamin C and iron can help keep lead from being absorbed.

Treatment of Lead Poisoning – Allopathic Treatment

  • When lead-containing materials are present in the gastrointestinal tract, whole bowel irrigation, cathartics, endoscopy, or even surgical removal may be used to eliminate it from the gut and prevent further exposure.
  • Lead-containing bullets and shrapnel may need to be surgically removed if they are in or near fluid-filled or synovial spaces.
  • Anticonvulsants may be given if lead encephalopathy is present, to control seizures, and treatments to control swelling of the brain include corticosteroids and mannitol.
  • In chelation therapy, a medication is given by mouth binds with the lead so that it’s excreted in urine. This therapy might be recommended for children with a blood level of 45 mcg/dL or greater and adults with high blood levels of lead or symptoms of lead poisoning.
  • EDTA chelation therapy treat adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood and children who can’t tolerate the drug used in conventional chelation therapy most commonly with a chemical called calcium disodium EDTA, given by injection.

Treatment of Lead Poisoning – Homeopathic Treatment

There’s no known treatment for plumbism at present.

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Lead Poisoning – Lifestyle Tips

  • Isolate possible sources of lead until they can be tested, removed, or cleaned.
  • Regularly wash your hands, toys, and common surfaces that might covered in dirt from outside, including floors and windows.
  • Avoid other non-residential sources of lead like traditional folk medicine, cookware and containers that aren’t lead-free.
  • Switch to using only cold water to prepare food or baby formula because hot water from inside the home is more likely to contain lead than cold water from the local water supply.
  • Doctors might recommend children and other individuals with high lead levels be hospitalized due to the high risk of lead exposure.
  • Nutrients like iron, vitamin C and calcium have been shown to help protect the body against lead by binding with it and stopping it from being absorbed or stored.

What are recommended exercise for person with Lead Poisoning?

No specific exercise for patients with lead poisoning.

Lead Poisoning & pregnancy- Things to know

  • Pregnant women’s past or present exposure to lead puts an unborn baby at risk.
  • Past exposure to lead may store the lead in woman’s bones and teeth.
  • Lead readily crosses the placenta by passive diffusion and can be detected in the fetal brain as early as the end of the first trimester.
  • Increased lead levels during pregnancy has been associated with several adverse outcomes, including gestational hypertension, spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, and impaired neurodevelopment.

Common complications related to Lead Poisoning

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Infertility
  • Behavioral issues in children
  • Delay in growth development

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