Acetone Poisoning

Acetone is an organic solvent which is colorless and volatile liquid. It can be obtained from natural resources of plants and trees and also as a by-product of animal fats. Acetone is present in urine and blood in minute quantities and the same would be in high levels for diabetic patients. Liver is the organ that breaks down excess of acetone from the body. When the amount of acetone becomes higher than the normal level, the liver becomes incapable of breaking it down resulting in acetone poisoning.

Acetone evaporates quickly in air and when exposed it is easily inflammable and hence should be stored carefully. Many products like nail polish, furniture polish contains acetone. Acetone poisoning is a rare phenomenon that occurs when a person accidentally consume rubbing alcohol or certain paints. It can also be caused when blood sugar increases in alarming amounts resulting in ketoacidosis creating plenty of acetone in the blood that cannot be handled by liver.

A person who is low-fat diet may contain increased levels of acetone in his blood and urine. Similarly when a person is starving for more days his body produces volumes of acetone by metabolic process. Acetone poisoning may produce symptoms like slurred speech and lethargy feeling. Acetone poisoning should be treated immediately to avoid fatal results. The patient will be stabilized by giving extra oxygen or will be forced to vomit acetone by stomach pumping method.

Symptoms :

Human body can tolerate up to 200 ml of acetone easily. Acetone poisoning is a rare occurrence and it develops only if large volumes of acetone are consumed or inhaled by a person accidentally. Acetone poisoning in mild form can produce symptoms like headache and slurred speech. Some people may feel lethargic and sleepy due to overproduction of acetone.

In severe cases the patient may go into coma or even die within minutes. He may lose conscious and would have difficulty in breathing. It can cause intense pain in the stomach with fruity odor of breath. This condition may lead to mental imbalance and sudden coma. When a person is forced to inhale large volumes of acetone vapor, it can cause severe irritation in his mouth and throat. Soft mucus lining of the esophagus may get burned due to acetone vapor.

Causes :

Under normal condition, our body breaks up fat molecules into organic compounds called ketones. This particle is transported through the blood which would be broken down into much simpler substances when it reaches the liver. Liver cannot tolerate large amounts of ketones produced suddenly. Ketoacidosis is a process by which volumes of ketones are produced in the blood.

This can happen in diabetic patients and people who are extremely starving. Once the body is starved off energy, it would automatically use stored up fats which is converted into ketones. This is a very rare condition happens when a person is left to starve for many days. Acetone poisoning can develop due to accidental consumption of rubbing alcohol, certain paints and nail-polish remover.

Tests :

The doctor would detect acetone poisoning based on the above signs. He would check for the breath of the person for the presence of fruity smell. He may order for blood and urine test to find out the levels of ketones. If needed, toxicology test will be done to check the presence of toxic chemicals in the body.

Treatment :

First the patient will be stabilized by giving supportive oxygen. By giving oxygen supply artificially the body would pump out acetone naturally. However this can be done only for mild acetone poisoning and when the patient is conscious enough to speak. In severe case of acetone poisoning, taking off the excess of acetone through lungs is dangerous. In such cases stomach pumping is to be done to wash out excess of acetone completely.

If the person is induced vomiting acetone can harm and burn the lining of esophagus causing more damage. Hence it is better to clear off acetone by stomach pumping which can be done by sending saline water into the stomach. This procedure should be handled by expert team because stomach pumping can cause the risk of aspiration pneumonia when water gets into the lungs.

Tips for Prevention :

People with prolonged diabetes should be careful in maintaining the right levels of blood sugar. They should follow the instructions of the doctor in taking medications and diet. People who are handling paints especially thinner should be careful enough not to inhale or consume acetone. Children and teenagers should be taught not to inhale nail polish very much since it may cause acetone poison. People handling acetone compounds in lab should wear protective masks on their face and hands to prevent inhalation of acetone. The entire place should be kept well ventilated.

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