What is Acrodynia?

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  • Written By: Kaiser Castro
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 31 May 2020
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Acrodynia, also known as Feer's disease, pink disease, or Swift's disease, is a condition where high levels of mercury accumulate in the body, reading chronic levels. It can be caused by consuming foods or items contaminated with mercury. Commonly affecting young children in the 1950s due to contaminated teething powders, the condition is noted to cause a pink discoloration in the body’s extremities, sensitivity to light sources, irritability, and chronic nerve pain. It can result in severe damage to the nervous system if left untreated.

Acrodynia is a rare condition, but one that can still be caused by negligence. Children affected with the condition often eat foods that are potentially rich with mercury, like shellfish, shark, whale, and dolphin. It can also be caused by chemicals found in paint, teething powders, and batteries. Accidental consumption of the mercury inside of traditional glass thermometers can also cause acrodynia.

If the acrodynia is left untreated, then listlessness and fatigue will set in as the immune system tries to ward off the invading contaminant. Weakness and nerve pain in the extremities are hallmarks of a person being adversely affected with mercury poisoning. Prolonged exposure to mercury can cause excessive trembling, reduced cognitive ability, discoloration in the toes, and sleep disturbances.

Mercury is a heavy metal that is naturally made as well as artificially manufactured. The weathering of rocks and volcanic activity can release large amounts of mercury into the biosphere. Mercury is also created as an unwanted by-product when fossil fuels like coal are being processed. Varying levels of mercury can be found in landfills, processed soils, sediments, and large bodies of water. It can cycle between land, air, and bodies of water for extended periods of time, making it very difficult for it to be completely eradicated from an area.

The mercury in the environment is absorbed through animals, especially fish, before finally finding itself within food. Levels of mercury in a marine animal may not be high enough to damage an adult person though repeated consumption of contaminated fish may build up the mercury levels in the body and thereby creating health problems. Individuals with compromised immune systems like young children and the elderly can be susceptible to the damaging effects of mercury.

As a highly reactive and volatile substance, mercury is a compound that has a low topical absorption, but can release poisonous vapors. It can also be found in wall fillings and cracked paint. The vapor can enter the body via the respiratory tract, where it can infiltrate the circulatory system and spread throughout the body.


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