21st October 2022: Abdominal pain has a wide range of diagnoses, from minor self-limiting conditions to life-threatening emergencies. Usually, abdominal pain is the result of gastrointestinal problems, but in some cases, the cause can be lead poisoning, which can be difficult to diagnose and can lead to acute and chronic lead poisoning in humans.
Lead poisoning is an uncommon but fatal disease and can cause abdominal pain, headaches, dizziness, nightmare, fatigue, and other symptoms. The abdominal pain that it causes can be misdiagnosed as an acute abdomen. Rapid diagnosis of lead poisoning is difficult due to the lack of specific symptoms and low morbidity.
Usually, out of 100 patients who come to the emergency room with abdominal pain, around 99 of them either have appendicitis, gall bladder stone, or pancreatitis, which results in the usual diagnosis. Even if an endoscopy, CT scan, ultrasound, and blood tests are performed, the results may be normal. It is important that one should understand that lead is a heavy metal that can affect various organ systems in humans, including the peripheral and central nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract, joints, muscles, kidneys, and the hemopoetic system.
Lead positing is a condition which is more common among children as compared to adults. In terms of adults, people who are working in the paint industry, people who deal with water pipes, or those involved in construction businesses are more prone to getting high lead levels in their blood. It is important that we understand that a high lead level in the blood can also be a reason for severe abdominal pain.
Explaining this condition Dr. Manish Kak, Consultant Gastroenterology, Manipal Hospitals, Ghaziabad said, “In a recent incident, a 40-year-old man with a similar condition came to our hospital with a complaint of unbearable abdominal pain. We did all the routine diagnosis for common gastrointestinal issues, but there was no evidence of what was causing the pain in his stomach. When all his reports were normal, we decided to get a test done for lead, and we found that the lead level in his blood was 76, which is surprisingly high and is rare in adults. “
Additionally, the lead, which was circulating in his blood, was not only causing severe abdominal pain but also causing low hemoglobin, anemia, and changes in his high blood picture. To treat him, we used chelation medicine, which is generally used for removing mercury and lead poisoning from the lungs. The patient responded very well to the treatment, and after five days of treatment, he was completely fine, and his lead level also came down.
The sign of lead poisoning that causes abdominal pain has historically led to needless diagnostic and even therapeutic procedures. It is crucial to assess patients who report to the emergency room (ER) or gastrointestinal diseases clinic with abdominal pain to see if they have been suffering from lead poisoning.