Neurologic features of chronic minamata disease (organic mercury poisoning) and incidence of complications with aging

J Environ Sci Health B. 1995 Sep;30(5):699-715. doi: 10.1080/03601239509372961.


To elucidate the neurologic features of chronic Minamata disease, and the incidence of complications with aging, we studied 80 patients with documented Minamata disease (organic mercury poisoning) from 1986 to 1994 (mean age: 63 years). Of the cardinal neurologic findings, sensory impairment was seen with highest frequency in 98.8% of patients limited to the extremities in 86.3%. Impairment of lower extremity coordination was observed in 60%, constriction of the visual field in 51.9%, and retrocochlear hearing loss in 41%. To assess age-related complications, patients were separated into three groups by age: Group I (10 to 39 years); Group II (40 to 69 years); Group III (> or = 70 years). The incidences of hypertension and cerebrovascular diseases, organic ophthalmologic disorders (including cataracts), presbyacusis, and cervical spondylosis deformans increased significantly with age. Compared with a preceding survey (1981 to 1985, 171 patients, mean age: 63.5 years), the incidences of complicated hypertension and cataracts had decreased, whereas those of cerebrovascular disease and retinitis pigmentosa remained unchanged. The incidences of abnormal brain computed tomography (CT), presbyacusis, cervical spondylosis deformans, and positive tests for urine sugar also increased. The incidences of these complications other than retinitis pigmentosa were similar to those in the general population. These results accurately reflect the recent epidemiological disease tendencies in Japan toward a decreased incidence of hypertension and an increased incidence of diabetes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mercury Poisoning / complications
  • Mercury Poisoning / physiopathology*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / poisoning*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*


  • Methylmercury Compounds