Neuropathy Following Chronic Use of Denture Adhesive in a 40-Year-Old Patient

Michael F. Neerman, PhD; Kathleen Kiefhaber, BSN, RN; Richard D. Barrera, MD


Lab Med. 2007;38(10):608-609. 

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1. The laboratory values from the comprehensive metabolic panel, lipid panels, and complete blood count (CBC) are reported in Table 1 , Table 2 , and Table 3 , respectively. Most of the values are within the normal limits and did not correlate with the patient's history and symptoms. According to the 24-hour urine heavy metal screen ( Table 4 ), however, the patient showed a marked level of zinc with values of 207 µg/dL (ref. 15 to 120 µg/dL) and 2,691 µg/d (ref. 15 to 1,200 µg/d).

2. The patient's laboratory findings insofar as the elevated zinc levels are indicative of hyperzincuria.

3. The average daily intake of zinc for Americans is roughly 5.2 to 16.2 mg, mostly from food.[1] The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 11 mg/d for men and 8 mg/d for women. About 20% to 30% of the zinc ingested is absorbed from the GI tract.[2] Causes of elevated zinc levels include occupational exposure, ingestion of poorly treated water flowing through galvanized copper pipes, and overuse of supplements or products containing zinc.

4. Most likely diagnosis: hyperzincuria. Due to the elevated urinary zinc levels coupled with the patient's history of chronic denture adhesive use containing a zinc compound, oral exposure to the zinc is the likely cause of the patient's elevated zinc level. It can be inferred that the patient also suffers from hyperzincemia due to the high clearance of zinc from the body.

5. Although a 24-hour urine collection is the "gold standard" for detecting metals in the body, a serum analysis should also be performed. Because elevated zinc concentrations cause copper deficiency, a serum copper concentration should always be obtained simultaneously.[1] Whole blood zinc levels exceed serum levels by a ratio of approximately 6:1 to 7:1 because the metal accumulates in the erythrocytes.[3] But because zinc is found everywhere in the environment and laboratory, one must exercise extreme caution to avoid contamination of samples.[1]

6. There are a number of sources leading to elevated zinc levels in the body. Typically, high zinc levels are seen in those who have had environmental exposure to it. Chronic exposure to zinc can engender a reversible sideroplastic anemia and a reversible myelodysplasia-like syndrome.[1] Granulocytopenia and anemia can also be clinical signs with the bone marrow showing vacuolated precursors and ringed sideroblasts;[1] the mechanism is believed to be through a zinc-induced copper deficiency.[4] For example, Willis and colleagues examined 3 cases whereby chronic ingestion of zinc-containing products led to severe neuropathy and neutropenia.[5] The bone marrow findings in all of their cases suggested copper deficiency. Subsequent laboratory testing determined this deficieny to be due to zinc excess. Hepatic or renal toxicity has not been observed in individuals who have consumed excessive amounts of elemental zinc.[6] Furthermore, it has been suggested that exposure to elevated levels of zinc may be important in the pathogenesis of demyelinating diseases,[7,8,9] possibly causing neurological defects. Overall, however, toxicity from zinc is rare.

7. The treatment for acute oral zinc poisoning is primarily supportive. Hydration and antiemetic therapy should be employed. Insofar as chelation therapy, where the data regarding the efficacy of chelation therapy is lacking, calcium sodium EDTA has been used successfully in a few cases.[10,11] The agent DMPS (sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropane-1-sulfonate) has been shown to be efficacious in increasing the urinary excretion of zinc.[12] Finally, there exists 2 potential zinc-selective chelators, DPESA (4-{ [2-{ bis-pyridin-2-ylmethylamino)ethylamino]-methyl} phenylmethanesulfonic acid sodium salt and TPESA (4-{ [2-{ bis-pyridin-2-ylmethylamino)ethyl]-pyridine-2-ymethylamino} -methyl)phenyl]methanesulfonic acid sodium salt,[13] that have shown promise in vitro but further in vivo studies are warranted to assess its clinical utility.[1] Finally, given the plausibility of zinc-induced copper deficiency, serum copper levels should also be determined and replenished if necessary.


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