Lead Poisoning Symptoms

What are the most common symptoms of lead poisoning? Acute lead poisoning is accompanied by headache, weakness, vertigo, vomiting, bradycardia, sweating, salivation, itch, tremor of extremities. Usually symptoms start its development in 6 – 48 hours after poisoning.

Main symptoms of lead poisoning

lead poisoning signs

Vapors’ inhalation followed by such neurological symptoms as: insomnia, headache, ataxia, spasms, hallucinations, psychomotor agitation.

Oral administration (by mouth) followed by dyspeptic disorders such as thirst, eructation, abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gingivitis. For children of 1 – 5 years old such symptoms as sustained uncontrollable vomiting, ataxia, spasms, impairment of consciousness are very typical.

Chronic poisoning, mild or moderate intoxication, sometimes followed by myalgia, arthralgia, paresthesia, tremor of extremities, tiredness, acrimony, mnestic disorders, insomnia.

Gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, weight loss, hypotrophy, and kidney failure may appear as well.

Usually intoxication (acute or chronic) is followed by alimentary syndrome such as anorexia, metallic taste (taste of thrix – in case of chronic intoxication) in the mouth, constipation, intestinal colic, rigidity of abdominal muscles (occasionally), gingivae covered with lead (blue-black) line.

Neuromuscular syndrome (in adults) includes painless peripheral neuritis and extensor muscle weakness. Cerebral syndrome is typical as well.

Chronic poisoning is followed by lead encephalopathy (in children) with epileptiform fits, comatose state; long-term residual effects including neurological disorders, psychopathological disorders (persistent headache, insomnia, nervousness, nightmare disorder), mental retardation (in children).

Talking about acute poisoning symptoms, usually it is accompanied by hallucinations, delusion, psychomotor agitation, mania, spasms.

Preschool children are more sensitive to harmful lead exposure because their nervous system is at the forming stage. It is reported that acute lead poisoning has an influence on children’s abilities to read and do sums. Moreover, the higher lead level of a child’s blood the more these abilities are affected. Besides, lead poisoning affects children’s behavior, strengthening their aggression and anti-social tendencies. Even lead poisoning in small dose provokes diminution of intellectual development, attention and concentration difficulty, being behind in reading, leads to aggressiveness, hyperactivity and other problems in child’s behavior. These abnormalities may have long-term character and be irreversible. Low birth weight, growth retardation and hearing loss are also the results of lead poisoning.

Consequences of lead poisoning

Lead encephalopathy statistics: 25% – fatal case, 15-40% – sustained neurological disorders (spasms, central paralysis, optic atrophy, psychic inhibition, mental retardation (in children), epileptiform fits), total disability may appear as well.

CKD (chronic kidney disease) or lead gout may appear as a result of having contact with lead.


First of all it is necessary to eliminate source of exposure. In case of industrial lead poisoning the Occupational Safety Administration must be informed; in case of children’s poisoning the local health authorities should be informed in order to detect the lead source.

In order to reduce lead effect on the organism it is necessary to use complexing agents, especially calcium salt EDTA, dimercaprol and D-penicillamine.  Size of lead pool which may be connected with complexing agents can be detected by lead mobilization test; for this purpose it is necessary to inject a measured dose of complexing agent (usually EDTA) that indicates lead diuresis, which is compared later with a dose of injected preparation. Test results are considered to be positive if for 1 mg of complexing agent injected within 24 h, more than 1 mcg of lead is being urinary recovered. Test helps to estimate whether it is reasonable to conduct complexing therapy for the patients with border-line blood lead concentration or for already treated patients.