Which neurologic findings are characteristic of lead toxicity?

Updated: Jan 16, 2020
  • Author: Pranay Kathuria, MD, FACP, FASN, FNKF; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Answer

The neurological system is most vulnerable to lead toxicity.  Children are more likely to develop central nervous system toxicity while the peripheral nervous system is more often affected in adults.

The manifestations in children include temperamental lability, irritability, behavioral changes, hyperactivity or decreased activity, loss of developmental milestones and language delay. Lower IQ and ADHD like symptoms may be present. Severe toxicity can cause delirium, convulsions and encephalopathy. Depression and anxiety are more common in patients. Lead causes demyelination of the peripheral nervous system and the abnormalities mostly affect the extensor motor nerves and may result in hand and foot drop.


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