Lead Poisoning: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 3/27/2019

Lead poisoning can be acute (from a sudden exposure) or chronic (developing over a long time).

Signs and symptoms associated with lead poisoning include learning problems, brain damage, hyperactivity, headache, and hearing loss. Other symptoms and signs can include slow growth, irritability, fatigue, baby colic, memory loss, constipation, vomiting, or nausea.

Causes of lead poisoning

The absorption of lead or any of its salts from the environment into the body can cause lead poisoning. Household paint made before 1978 likely contain lead, and leaded gasoline, certain batteries, water pipes, and pottery glazes also contain lead. Lead is still sometimes also found in water, food, household dust, and soil and can be found in the workplace in some occupations.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2019

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