Neurotoxicity Treatment in Tuscaloosa, AL
What Are Neurotoxins?
A neurotoxin is any poisonous substance that causes damage to nerve tissue. Neurotoxins are numerous and can range from industrial solvents to drinking alcohol. Neurotoxin-related nerve tissue damage leads to neurotoxicity, or adverse effects on the nervous system. Neurotoxicity can be considered a medical emergency when symptoms are severe; for more information on neurotoxins and how to stay safe in Tuscaloosa, AL, call (334) 781-7319 or contact Dr. Ryan McWhorter online.
Neurotoxicity is the result of neurotoxins damaging the nervous system. There are various ways in which neurotoxins can kill cells, including interfering with their communication, structure, or metabolism. While some neurotoxins originate from inside the body (endogenous), many others come from external sources (exogenous).
Endogenous neurotoxins are chemicals that are ordinarily beneficial and perform important roles but are toxic when the body produces too much of them. This can happen in the context of diseases, such as when Huntington’s disease causes overproduction of glutamate, or substance abuse, in the case of the body overproducing oxygen radicals in response to cocaine use.
Common endogenous neurotoxins include:
- Beta amyloid, which can be produced as a result of a genetic mutation
- Oxygen radicals, which are oxygen molecules with excess electrons
- Glutamate (in excess)
- Dopamine (in excess)
Neurotoxicity from endogenous neurotoxins is rarely a medical emergency, but may still require treatment.
Exogenous neurotoxins can come from many sources, such as environmental pollutants and bacteria. Common exogenous neurotoxins include:
- Arsenic, which may be found in groundwater
- Ethanol (drinking alcohol)
- Manganese, a potential occupational hazard for industrial workers
- Botulinum (Botox), produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, is used medically to treat certain muscular conditions and cosmetically to remove facial wrinkles
- Tetanus toxin, often found in rusted metal
- Tetrodotoxin, which can be found in poorly prepared fugu (puffer fish)
- Dichlorophenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was once used in pesticides and may still be an environmental pollutant
- Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), an environmental pollutant
- Toluene, a common industrial solvent
Exogenous neurotoxins can cause memory problems, epilepsy, and cognitive disability, although severity of these issues may vary wildly depending on the neurotoxin involved and the degree of exposure. There is also controversy over whether or not mold can cause neurotoxicity. As most evidence for household mold causing neurological symptoms due to supposed neurotoxicity is anecdotal, more research is needed.
Neurotoxicity Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the source of neurotoxicity, signs and symptoms may be short- or long-lasting. As neurotoxicity may affect any part of the nervous system and skeletal muscle system, there are many ways in which neurotoxicity can manifest itself.
Brain malfunction (encephalopathy) is fairly common with neurotoxicity but is generally mild and rarely lasts more than a few days. Signs of encephalopathy-related neurotoxicity may include:
- Short-term memory or attention span loss
- Nausea and dizziness
- Poor coordination
In the case of chronic alcohol abuse or lead poisoning, these symptoms (particularly cognition problems) may worsen, in which case medical attention is necessary.
Some neurotoxins like mercury and arsenic damage nerve cells in places other than the brain and spine, causing peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms usually include stiffness, hypersensitive reflexes, and poor coordination, and recovery from this type of neurotoxicity is usually possible (though slow).
Drug abuse, genetic mutations that cause production of endogenous neurotoxins, and toxic chemicals can affect the cerebellum, which may result in:
- Poor coordination
- Prolonged, involuntary muscle spasms or contractions (dystonia)
- Rhythmic, involuntary muscle contractions (dyskinesia)
Exposure to the toxic chemical 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) has also been found to contribute to development of Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that affects one’s movement.
Hearing loss has been attributed to the neurotoxic solvent toluene, and toluene and similar chemicals have also been implicated in vision loss through optic nerve damage. Neurotoxins can also interfere with vision by damaging the membranes that cover and protect the eyes (conjunctiva). Some medical professionals believe that neurotoxic industrial solvents and heavy metals can cause loss of smell and taste, but more tests are needed to confirm this.
Severe psychosis has been associated with drug abuse, particularly with LSD. Patients with other neurotoxicity symptoms also often complain of depression or anxiety, but most research on neurotoxins and psychiatric symptoms is still very new.
As most neurotoxicity symptoms can have other explanations like organic neurodegenerative illness, diagnosing neurotoxicity can be complicated. There is also no one test for presence of neurotoxins, and testing is not available for all neurotoxic substances.
Diagnostic tests that can be performed may include:
- Nerve conduction tests to detect peripheral neuropathy
- Taking recordings of pupil movements and reactions to light (pupillography) to detect neuropathy
- Heart rate variability test to determine whether or not neurotoxicity is affecting the heart
- Brain imaging with triple-camera single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) system to check for damage to brain tissue
- Psychiatric testing to identify whether or not psychosis is present
- Blood tests to check for presence of neurotoxic heavy metals
Clinical standards for neurotoxicity treatment are still in development. To treat neurotoxicity, your healthcare provider is likely to first eliminate the toxin from your body, usually through chelation (injection of an agent that binds to toxins in the blood), or whole-bowel irrigation (flushing of intestines with special solution) for ingested neurotoxins.
Depending on the neurotoxin you were exposed to, you may also be given medication to counteract the toxin or relieve the symptoms. After the initial treatment, your healthcare provider may advise you to take care to avoid neurotoxic environmental pollutants like pesticides and car exhaust.
While not backed by clinical evidence, some alternative medicine practitioners believe that mild neurotoxicity, especially if the cause is environmental pollutants, can be treated by:
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Avoiding gluten and processed foods
- Avoiding psychoactive drugs, including prescription medications
- Sleep management
Request Your Neurotoxicity Treatment Consultation Today
If you are experiencing severe symptoms of neurotoxicity, you should seek emergency treatment immediately. To schedule a consultation with a Tuscaloosa neurotoxicity treatment specialist, call (334) 781-7319 or contact Dr. Ryan McWhorter online today.
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