Lead is a metal found in many objects. When found in the human body, it can have toxic effects. There are specific treatments that can rid the body of lead, but the best treatment is prevention.
What is lead?
Lead is a heavy metal, an element. It is dense and soft, making it useful for multiple applications. It was originally used in construction, plumbing, gasoline, paint, and many other industries. However, lead toxicity was soon discovered in the late 19 th century. It was most recently phased out of paint in the latter half of the 20 th century.
How does lead poisoning occur?
A large part of modern lead poisoning occurs due to lead plumbing or lead paint. While some countries have outlawed using lead in paint, many homes that were painted before the latter half of the 20 th century still have lead paint in them. Paint is known to chip. On walls, trim, or floors, the new paint may chip off, expose old paint, and then the lead paint may chip. If children find these chips and eat them, they may develop lead poisoning. Even a fine dust is enough to cause lead toxicity. Lead pipes lead to lead toxicity through low erosion and contamination of the water supply.
Lead is dangerous because it interferes with an important part of blood cell production. Lead inhibits a certain enzyme that is involved in heme synthesis. Heme is one part of an important compound in the blood called hemoglobin.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Symptoms of lead poisoning are wide-ranging. They include general symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and headaches. However, they can also more irregular symptoms like cognitive impairment, memory loss, and nerve pain/numbness. Other symptoms include constipation, abdominal pain, and purple-blue lines on the gums. Lastly, lead can cause damage to the kidneys and high blood pressure. Lead poisoning in children is even more concerning because of the possibility for long-term consequences.
What are the long-term consequences?
As stated above, lead toxicity in children is a major concern. There is concern that it may delay developmental milestones. For example, lead is known to cause cognitive impairment and fatigue. While these symptoms are generally thought to resolve once the toxicity is resolved, the actual long-term effects are relatively unknown. It has been shown that long-term effects in those affected by lead-poisoning include lower sperm count an increase in miscarriages.
How is lead toxicity diagnosed?
There are multiple ways to diagnose lead poisoning. In fact, many doctors automatically test children if they live in a house built before the 1970s. The first way is through blood lead levels. This is generally a screening test. A medical provider will do a finger stick to determine the lead level. If elevated, they will then do a formal blood sample and send it to the lab to determine the exact level. Additionally, taking a blood sample and smearing it on a slide underneath a microscope can show certain qualities consistent with lead poisoning. In particular, something
called basophilic stippling is often present in red blood cells affected by lead poisoning. However, other conditions can cause basophilic stippling, so this test is not used alone. If there is a concern that the patient has swallowed a lead object, imaging like X-Rays may be used to locate the object.
What is the treatment?
The first method of treatment is to decrease the exposure to lead. This needs to be tailored based on the cause of lead paint. For example, professional lead paint abatement, dust reduction, and new plumbing may be appropriate depending on the source. In order to actually decrease the lead in the blood, there are treatments called chelation therapies. They bind the lead. These include oral succimer, dimercaprol, and possibly EDTA. There are different indications for different therapies, but they all work through similar principles.
Lead poisoning can be potentially devastating. There are tests that determine lead levels and treatments to get rid of the heavy metal deposited in the body. We believe in delivering care according to the latest scientific research findings. If you would like to learn more about how the Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic can help you reach your goals, contact us today.