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 update, Dr. Jonathan S Rutchik, a San Francisco, California, based physician board certified in both neurology and occupational and environmental medicine and Associate Professor at the University of California at San Francisco in the Division of Occupational Medicine, discusses common exposure sources, biological exposure indices, and clinical manifestations of mercury toxicity while focusing on mercury neuropathy for elemental, inorganic, and organic mercury. Dr. Rutchik has updated this clinical summary to reflect the current literature regarding peripheral nervous system disease and this commonly encountered metal.

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. Blood mercury is most appropriate for short-term exposures.

In This Article

Historical note and nomenclature
Clinical manifestations
Pathogenesis and pathophysiology
Differential diagnosis
Diagnostic workup
Prognosis and complications
References cited