This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Various nervous symptoms arise from poisoning the system with, lead. These may be either slight or extremely severe. Among slight symptoms may be mentioned headache, dizziness, fullness and constriction of the head, all of which symptoms are aggravated by mental work. In many cases tremor is present, especially in the hands. The trembling is sometimes extensive, but generally consists in simply slight tremulous motions, especially when the muscles are contracting. In severe cases of lead poisoning, the patient may suffer with delirium, convulsions, or coma. One of the most common of all symptoms arising from lead poisoning is colic, which generally precedes the more severe phase. Lead paralysis, the subject of this article, is simply one of the symptoms which arises from plumbism, or poisoning from lead. The most common form of paralysis is what is termed "wrist-drop," in which the extensor muscles of the arm are paralyzed so that the patient cannot extend his arm or raise the wrist. The paralysis also extends to the flexor muscles, or those on the inside of the arm, as well as those on the upper side, but in a less degree. When the disease continues for some time, wasting of the muscles occurs and various distortions of the limb through contraction. The muscles of the limbs are also liable to be affected, as well as the muscles of respiration and other groups of muscles. The sensibility of the skin is rarely affected. Paralysis occurring through lead poisoning is distinguished from that originating otherwise by the fact that the individual has been exposed to this cause, and especially by the appearance of a bluish line around the edges of the gums. This disease occurs most often in persons who work with lead, as lead founders, manufacturers of lead paint, painters, plumbers, printers, etc. Lead poisoning is also frequently produced by drinking water which has passed through lead pipes, or which has been stored in lead-lined cisterns or tanks, or collected from roofs covered with lead or lead-tin, or kept in vessels of lead or lead-tin. Smokers are exposed to lead poisoning by the use of cigars which have been wrapped in lead foil. The use of hair dyes containing lead is another very common cause of lead poisoning. In a case which we met some time ago, lead paralysis was produced in a young lady by the use of lead paint as a cosmetic. The use of lead plasters and lotions applied to ulcers or other surfaces, has resulted in lead poisoning.
In a majority of cases, this affection can be cured, provided the cause is removed. The use of electricity is indispensable, and, in bad cases, the galvanic current must be applied, as in most cases the paralyzed muscles cannot be made to contract by the faradic current. It is necessary to employ very strong currents in order to produce contraction. When contraction cannot be induced, the case is a hopeless one. Every attention should be given to the improvement of the general health. It is claimed that lead may be eliminated from the body by the use of iodide of potash. This drug should not be employed except under the care of a physician. Electricity may be used with benefit as often as every other day. It should be accompanied with shampooing, massage, and passive movements of the affected muscles. When contractions have occurred, various mechanical devices are sometimes necessary. Characteristic nervous symptoms are produced by the introduction into the system of mercury, arsenic, and various other drugs, the symptoms of which are described elsewhere.