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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Acrodynia is characterized by pink discoloration of the hands and feet, irritability, photophobia (sensitivity to light) and polyneuritis (inflamed nerves).

It is caused by chronic exposure to mercury.

The most common form of exposure in young children is ingesting mercury from a broken thermometer. The signs and symptoms of mercury toxicity may not appear until weeks or months after exposure has occurred.

Signs and Symptoms

Initial signs

  • Listlessness, drowsiness, irritability and a tendency to cry
  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
  • More than 50% complain of sensitivity to light
  • Generalized weakness and painful extremities

Within 2-4 weeks

  • Tip of the nose, fingers and toes turn a pinkish color, which progressively darkens and spreads into a net-like pattern.
  • Hands and feet become painful, cold, cyanotic (blue), erythematous (red) and swollen.
  • Extreme pain and itchiness in the extremity often leads to thickened scratched skin as the child rubs and scratches the area.
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) with a mouselike smell may occur. This may lead to miliaria and secondary bacterial skin infections.
  • Inflammation, swelling and gum erosion may occur with subsequent loss of teeth.
  • Alopecia and nail loss have also been reported.

Clinical Characteristics

Central nervous system








The goal of treatment is to remove the mercury and correct any fluid or electrolyte imbalances.