Arsenic is a heavy metal found in all human tissues. The concentration of arsenic in the body can be increased by professional, environmental (carbon burning) or intentional exposure. About 60% of the ingested arsenic is excreted in the urine. Arsenic is found in the environment in water and as a component of pesticides, in paints, in processed wood, in cosmetics and in some antiprotozoic drugs. Arsenic acts toxically by inhibiting certain enzymatic systems necessary for cellular metabolism. Determination of arsenic in the blood is used to quickly confirm acute poisoning. Chronic occupational exposure and chronic ingestion of arsenic are associated with skin, lung, and other cancers.
Symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, thirst that develops into dehydration and imbalance of liquids and electrolytes, hematuria, metallic taste, renal failure, jaundice. It can lead to death.
Symptoms and laboratory findings of chronic arsenic poisoning include: abnormal erythema and myeloma, alopecia (hair thinning), anemia, basophilic puncture, delirium, diarrhea, gastrointestinal symptoms, hepatomegaly, macular degeneration, Aldrich-Mees lines, metallic taste, peripheral neuropathy, changes in skin color and thrombocytopenia.
Diet rich in seafood can increase arsenic levels in the blood. Arsenic is transferred via the placenta to the fetus.
Some Asian herbs commonly prescribed for hemorrhoids and for the treatment of congenital retinoblastoma may contain high concentrations of arsenic.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. Correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.