American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

Lead Intoxication Caused by Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

lead.smlThe total number of people using traditional Chinese herbal medicine is vast and steadily increasing in East Asian countries and Chinese society. The industrial output value of traditional Chinese herbal medicine has also continued to expand rapidly across the world since the year 2000.(1) Here we describe a case of lead intoxication following the use of traditional Chinese herbal medicine as an agent for maintaining health.

A 25-year-old man, a teaching assistant at a university, with no significant medical history, presented with progressive exertional dyspnea for 2 months. An intermittent pulling-like pain over his anterior subcostal region had developed 2 weeks before his admission. He reported neither bloody vomiting nor tarry or bloody stools. His physical examination was normal except for pale conjunctiva. His renal and liver function, electrolytes, gastroscopy, colonoscopy, and computed tomography were all unremarkable. Serial investigations showed hypochromic microcytic anemia (hemoglobin 8.3 g/dL). The red blood cell morphology showed anisocytosis with basophilic stippling. (Figure)

A review of his medical history found that for the past 3 months he had been taking a traditional Chinese herbal medicine known as Qushangjieyu-san powder. The diagnosis of lead intoxication was confirmed by his blood lead level (75.5 μg/dL, normal website.

— –Wei-Hung Lin, MD, Ming-Cheng Wang, MD, Wei-Chun Cheng, MD, Chia Jui Yen, MD, Meng-Fu Cheng, MD, Hsiu-Chi Cheng, MD, PhD

This is an article in press on The American Journal of Medicine website.

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