What is the role of nitrites in the etiology of methemoglobinemia?

Updated: Dec 09, 2018
  • Author: Mary Denshaw-Burke, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Organic and inorganic nitrites and nitrates are common causes of methemoglobinemia. Many of these substances can also be absorbed through the skin, and many prescription cardiac medications contain these compounds. Treatment of preterm infants with inhaled nitric oxide may lead to methemoglobinemia; susceptibility to methemoglobinemia in these infants may be increased by carriage of a single-nucleotide polymorphism in the CYB5R3 gene. [18]

Dietary intake may occur in infants or adults who ingest well water that has been contaminated with nitrites caused by water runoff from fertilized fields. [19] Prepackaged foods may contain significant levels of nitrites. [20, 21]

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