Lead and the kidney: nephropathy, hypertension, and gout

Conn Med. 1996 Sep;60(9):521-6.


Lead intoxication in human beings has been documented since the second century B.C. Renal disease, hypertension, and gout have all been linked to lead by strong circumstantial evidence. Both acute and chronic nephropathy can occur as a result of lead poisoning. Acute renal failure develops following acute lead intoxication and is often associated with gastrointestinal, neurologic, and hematologic disorders. Both blood and urinary laboratory abnormalities are associated with acute intoxication and are often diagnostic. Chronic lead nephropathy, a chronic tubulointerstitial nephritis on biopsy, occurs in the setting of long-term lead exposure and is often associated with hypertension and gout. Diagnosis of chronic lead nephropathy is more difficult since the laboratory abnormalities seen with acute lead intoxication are not present with chronic lead exposure. The typical clinical picture and the exclusion of other causes of renal disease allow the diagnosis of chronic lead nephropathy to be made. Evaluation of lead stores by either the calcium disodium edetate (EDTA) mobilization test or K-x-ray fluorescence are helpful in clinching the diagnosis. Treatment with EDTA lead mobilization is effective for acute lead poisoning while avoidance of further lead exposure prevents recurrence of lead intoxication. Treatment of chronic lead nephropathy with EDTA lead mobilization is useful if renal failure is modest; however, EDTA mobilization is of no benefit in patients with more severe renal insufficiency.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure* / history
  • Gout / etiology*
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Lead Poisoning* / complications
  • Lead Poisoning* / diagnosis
  • Lead Poisoning* / history
  • Lead Poisoning* / therapy