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Mercury Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Mercury poisoning involves the toxicity from the consumption of mercury. Mercury is a metal that is toxic, and it comes in various forms in the environment.

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The most prevalent cause of mercury poisoning is the consumption of too much organic mercury or methylmercury, which can be linked to eating seafood.

Small amounts of mercury can be found in everyday foods and products. This small amount may not have any adverse effect on your health. However, too much of it can be poisonous.

Mercury is naturally existing. Nevertheless, the large amount found in the environment has been propelled by industrialization. This toxic metal can find its way into water and soil, where fish and animals get to ingest them.

Ingesting food with mercury is the most common cause of mercury poisoning. Unborn babies and children are the most vulnerable to the effect of mercury poisoning. Toxicity can be prevented by limiting exposure to this potentially harmful metal.

Symptoms

Mercury is well known for its neurological effects. According to the FDA, too much mercury can cause:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Memory issues
  • Pathological shyness
  • Numbness

Although mercury poisoning takes time to build up, a sudden onset of poisoning-related symptoms could indicate signs of acute toxicity. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect signs of mercury poisoning.

Adults with symptoms of Mercury poisoning

Symptoms of mercury poisoning that may manifest in adults include;

  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Trouble walking
  • Vision changes
  • Speech and hearing difficulties
  • Nerve loss in face and hands

Children and infants with symptoms of Mercury poisoning

Mercury poisoning can also impede fetal and early childhood development. Young children and infants who have been exposed to a high concentration of mercury may experience delays in:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Cognition
  • Visual-spatial awareness
  • Language and speech development

Dangers of mercury poisoning

A high level of mercury can cause long-term and even permanent neurological changes. The complications are especially noticeable in young children who are in the early stages of development.

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Exposure to mercury can lead to developmental complications in the brain, which could ultimately affect physical functions that may include motor skills. Learning disabilities may also include issues that some children who are exposed high dose of mercury can experience.

Also, adults exposed to mercury poisoning may experience permanent kidney and brain damage, as well as complications with circulation.

Causes

Poisoning from fish

Organic mercury (Methyl-mercury) poisoning is vastly linked to the consumption of seafood, mainly fish. There are two causes of toxicity caused by eating fish;

  • Eating of excess fish
  • Consuming some types of mercury-containing seafood

Fish can ingest mercury from their natural habitat. Since this is the case, some traces of mercury can be found in all types of fish. Also, more traces of mercury can be found in big fish because they prey on smaller fish that have mercury in their systems too.

Swordfish and sharks are among the most prominent of these. Marlin, bigeye tuna, and king mackerel also contain a large amount of mercury.

Mercury poisoning is also possible when a person overeats seafood. It’s okay to eat the following fish once or two times a week when consumed in small amounts;

  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Albacore tuna
  • Grouper
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Snapper
  • Anchovies

Although these overall options contain less mercury, a person would have to be careful with how much of these fish they eat.

Not more than 6 ounces of tuna, and 8-10 ounces of other fish every week is recommended for pregnant women. This would minimize the risk of fetal exposure to mercury.

Nursing mothers may also have to watch their fish consumption, as mercury can be passed to babies through breast milk.

Other causes

Other possible causes of mercury poisoning may be environmental or exposure to other forms, and they may include;

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  • CFL bulb breakage
  • Broken fever thermometer
  • Some types of jewelry
  • Silver dental fillings
  • Exposure to toxic air
  • Some skincare products
  • Mining of gold

Diagnosis

A physical examination is needed to diagnose mercury poisoning accurately. A sample of your blood and urine is necessary to rub some tests. Your healthcare provider would ask about your symptoms and ask for a log, if any.

They would also request for your dietary choices.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for mercury poisoning. The best treatment option is to seize exposure to dangerous metal. This means you may have to stop eating a lot of Mercury-containing foods.

You may also have to avoid areas where the toxicity of mercury is high if the poisoning is factored by your environment to prevent further exposure to the metal.

Chelation therapy may be administered if your mercury level becomes too high. Chelation is the administration of certain chelating drugs that eliminate mercury from the body system.

Neurological effects of mercury poisoning may require long-term treatments to help manage the symptoms.

Conclusion

Although early detection of mercury poisoning can be controlled, neurological complications are often permanent. You should seek medical attention immediately if you notice symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Have you ever been exposed to mercury poisoning? What symptoms did you experience? What measures did you take in controlling the condition? Do you have any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share? Please use the comment box below.

Mercury poisoning
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.
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