What is the role of lead in the etiology of toxic neuropathy?

Updated: Dec 06, 2017
  • Author: Jonathan S Rutchik, MD, MPH, FACOEM; Chief Editor: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS  more...
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Answer

A review of the literature reported that acute, high-level lead exposure has been described to cause motor neuropathy with minimal sensory involvement and rarely the textbook-described wrist drop. Chronic, lower-level exposures lead to axonal dying back neuropathies that appear similar to neuropathies from diabetes or alcohol. Chronic exposures, depending on the length of exposure, may have poorer prognoses but may present with a slower and more gradual onset. High–level, acute exposures are more likely to cause motor neuropathies, and recovery may be complete if termination of exposure is prompt. Because neuropathies have not seemed to correlate with blood lead levels, interference with porphyrin metabolism has been proposed as the etiology. [32]


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