Mercury neuropathy

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By Jonathan S Rutchik MD MPH

Mercury exposure is also known as or subsumes Elemental mercury poisoning, Inorganic mercury poisoning, Metallic mercury intoxication, and Organic mercury poisoning. ed.

Mercury neuropathy is a recognized sequela of occupational or environmental exposure to one of the various forms of the heavy metal. In this clinical article, Dr. Jonathan S Rutchik, a San Francisco, California, based physician board certified in both neurology and occupational and environmental medicine with a teaching affiliation with UCSF, discusses common exposure sources, biological exposure indices, and clinical manifestations of mercury toxicity while focusing on mercury neuropathy for elemental, inorganic, and organic mercury.

Key Points

  • Peripheral neuropathy from mercury exposure most commonly involves distal latency sensory slowing for short-term exposures, followed by motor slowing for more long-term exposures.
  • Inorganic and elemental mercury exposures are more likely to cause peripheral nervous system complaints and findings.
  • Central nervous system effects are more common with organic mercury exposures.
  • Twenty-four hour urine mercury best assess exposures to inorganic or elemental mercury.