Delayed neurological sequelae from ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and methanol poisonings

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2010 Dec;48(10):967-73. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2010.532803.


Introduction: Ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and methanol are widely available chemicals and are found in a variety of common household products including antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid and lubricants. Following ingestion of these glycols and methanol, patients frequently develop an early neurological syndrome consisting of inebriation, ataxia, and if severe, seizures and coma. Though uncommon, a neurological syndrome may also develop as a delayed complication.

Methods: Using Pub Med 438 references were identified of which 45 were relevant.

Features: Ethylene glycol poisoning has produced cranial nerve deficits (usually VII nerve dysfunction) after a delay of 5-20 days, Parkinsonism and cerebral edema. Diethylene glycol ingestion has been associated with the development of optic nerve injury, cranial nerve deficits, quadraparesis and peripheral neuropathy. Methanol poisoning has led to Parkinsonism and polyneuropathy.

Mechanisms of toxicity: Oxalate crystal deposition likely causes the cranial neuropathies related to ethylene glycol and 2-hydroxyethoxyacetic acid is thought to be the causal moiety in cranial neuropathies resulting from diethylene glycol toxicity. Formic acid is implicated in the optic nerve damage associated with methanol.

Conclusions: Uncommonly, delayed neurological syndromes may develop as complications of poisoning due to ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and methanol; the onset of such neurological damage is often days or even weeks post-ingestion. Further research is required to explain why the facial nerve is the cranial nerve most commonly involved and why the basal ganglia are predisposed to injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ethylene Glycol / metabolism
  • Ethylene Glycol / poisoning*
  • Ethylene Glycols / metabolism
  • Ethylene Glycols / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Methanol / metabolism
  • Methanol / poisoning*


  • Ethylene Glycols
  • diethylene glycol
  • Ethylene Glycol
  • Methanol