Sunday, April 13, 2008

What's in a word: Erethism

Erethism is the constellation of irritability, excitability, anxiety, insomnia, and social withdrawal. Erethism traditionally is seen in the chronic phase of the toxicity.

This definition comes from an e-medicine website under the title Mercury. Erethism is essentially one of the manifestations of mercury poisoning. This condition is easily recognized when you know a person who has it. It is not benign and it is a catastrophe for the family who has to deal with a person afflicted by this.

The main difficulty is in the diagnosis because mercury poisoning has been and is a condition that is not being taken seriously. It's more likely that the chronically mercury-poisoned person is considered a mental case, and since mental patients go to psychiatrists, they don't get taken seriously when they ask their doctor to look for a physical condition.

Alcohol poisoning is such a condition. It expresses itself as a mental derangement, and because everyone knows that a person who is under the influence of alcohol, will have all the mental signs of alcohol-poisoning: slurred speech, lack of balance, and, when it gets bad, confabulation, that means telling stories that are on the face of it lies, but not perceived as such by the person telling them.

Since alcohol can be measured in the blood, there is physical proof. With mercury poisoning, proof is not so easy to come by. The only time when there is real physical proof of mercury poisoning, is during the first couple of days after exposure, or when the dose is so high that there are not enough places for the mercury to attach itself to tissues in the kidney, the liver, brain, skin etc. Another way to find out about the real status of a person's level of mercury is a challenge test with a chelator such as DMSA or DMPS. Neither of those two substances, and the required tests are covered by health care providers.

What I would like to see in the future is at least the option to look for a cause of erethism. Let's hope the time will come when erethism can be eradicated.

1 Comments:

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