Germanium intoxication with sensory ataxia
Sensory ataxia in inorganic germanium intoxication is rare. A 63-year-old housewife had taken inorganic germanium preparations at a dosage of 36 mg a day for about 6 years (total dose about 80 g). She subsequently developed difficulty in writing and gait disturbance with peripheral neuropathy and renal involvement. Germanium, which is not usually detected in the non-germanium user, was accumulated in her hair and nails, permitting a diagnosis of inorganic germanium intoxication. The peripheral neuropathy and renal injury were not reversible after discontinuing the preparation. Pneumonia and sepsis then supervened and the patient died. Autopsy findings showed degeneration and loss of the dorsal root ganglion cells and degeneration of the dorsal column of the spinal cord. Two previously reported cases presented with ataxia. These patients took germanium for long periods and/or large quantities like our case. It was supposed that sensory ataxia was induced by chronic and dose dependent toxicity of inorganic germanium.
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