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Kidney Diseases

Lead in kidneys

06/03/2011

Question:

A few weeks ago I read an article about having lead in kidneys is especially dangerous for people with diabetes. This lead problem could be detected easily with a urine sample. When I went to my doctor to mention this I was informed that he never heard of that kind of test. Are you familiar with this test? I also have to say I`m living in South Korea for the last 10 years and have diabetes now for almost 20 years. I`m of German decent.

Answer:

Lead intoxication can be determined simply by a blood test, although this does not tell whether damage has been done to the kidneys. 

There is a type of urine test called an EDTA chelation test, in which a person receives injection of EDTA, an agent that binds lead in the body and carries it out in the urine.  Three complete days of urine collection must be done, and the amount of lead that is bound by EDTA and excreted in the urine is then measured.  If it's greater than a certain amount, this indicates lead damage to the kidneys. 

Before undertaking this fairly complicated test, it would be wise to see a kidney specialist, who can take a thorough history and perform simple blood, urine, and imaging tests to determine whether kidney damage due to lead is a realistic possibility to consider.

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Response by:

Mildred   Lam, MD Mildred Lam, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University