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Mercury Poisoning (cont.)


The prognosis for mercury poisoning depends on many factors:

  1. The chemical form of mercury (inhalation of vapor is worse than inorganic which may be worse than organic)
  2. The dose or amount of mercury poisoning (more leads to poor outcomes or death)
  3. Age of person (fetus, neonate, and infants more susceptible to lower doses of mercury)
  4. Length of exposure (longer exposures result in poor outcomes or death)
  5. Route of exposure (inhalation is worst, followed by ingestion, and then skin exposure)
  6. Persons overall health before exposure (people with preexisting medical problems do worse than healthy people)

Early treatment of any form of mercury has a good chance of improving the prognosis (reducing tissue damage and neurological effects of the toxins). Unfortunately, if the diagnosis and subsequent treatment is delayed, which has happened often in the past, many outcomes are only fair to poor with the patient experiencing residual or profound neurological deficits. This outcome is often seen with organic mercury poisoning because exposure usually occurs over a long length of time before characteristic signs and symptoms develop.

Medically reviewed by Rambod Rouhbakhsh, MD, MBA, FAAFP; American Board of Family Medicine


United States Environmental Protection Agency; "Mercury."

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; "ToxFAQs.™"

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; "Mercury."

MedlinePlus; "Mercury."; "Mercury Poisoning."

United States Environmental Protection Agency; "What Never to Do with a Mercury Spill."; "Toxicity, Mercury: Multimedia."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2014

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