Arsenic Poisoning - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

People can be exposed to arsenic by inhaling it, by consuming contaminated foods, water, or beverages, or by skin contact. We are normally exposed to trace amounts of arsenic in the air and water, and in foods. People may be exposed to higher levels if they live near industrial areas that currently or formerly contained arsenic compounds. Areas with known high concentrations of arsenic in the drinking water are also associated with greater exposure.

Acute or immediate symptoms of a toxic level of exposure to arsenic may include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark urine (termed black water urine)
  • Dehydration
  • Cardiac problems
  • Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells)
  • Vertigo
  • Delirium
  • Shock
  • Death

Long-term exposures to aresenic lower than toxic levels can lead to skin changes (darkening or discoloration, redness, swelling and hyperkeratosis (skin bumps that resemble corns or warts). Whitish lines (Mees' lines) may appear in the fingernails. Both sensory and motor nerve defects can develop. Additionally, liver and kidney function may be affected.

Arsenic exposure over the long-term has also been associated with the development of certain cancers, and arsenic has been classified as a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Studies of people in parts of Southeast Asia and South America where there has been a high level of arsenic in the drinking water have reported an increased risk of developing cancers of the bladder, kidney, lung, and skin. Organic arsenic compounds are not as toxic as inorganic compounds and are not believed to be linked to cancer.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: felicitas, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 26

I have been chronically ill for six months. I have had night sweats, felt sick to my stomach, severe abdominal pain, fever, hypertension, low potassium levels, headaches, problems with bowel movements, itchy skin, hives, lower urinary tract infections, and palpitations. I have been hospitalized at least 30 times and even my doctors can't seem to figure out what is happening to me. I wonder if it could be arsenic poisoning.

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Comment from: B l Wilson, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: June 19

I had pins and needles in finger tips and feet, and vomiting (blue purple color), maybe because arsenic was mixed with a different poison. I also had cramping, fatigue, depression, high blood pressure and I had to go to the emergency room! I also have hangnails, I bruise easily, my heart is racing and I have hair loss!

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