Lead Test

Other names: Blood Lead Level; Blood Lead Test

Lead is a metal, which used to be contained in paints, household items and petrol and is still present in some environments; it is poisonous in the body and can cause harm. Lead poisoning can be very serious and may cause long-term health effects in both children and adults.

If lead poisoning is left untreated, it can contribute to slow development and learning and poor kidney function.

Why is the test used?

The test is used to check the levels of lead in the blood; the test is usually ordered when a patient may have been exposed to lead (lead can be inhaled or ingested in certain environments) and is suffering from symptoms including:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Tiredness

The test is also used as a routine screening test for people who work in environments or have hobbies which may mean that they are exposed to lead; for example, people who enjoy stained glass painting and those who work in plumbing or construction.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of the patient’s blood; the sample is usually taken from a vein in the arm. A needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe; once the sample has been collected it will be placed in a sample bottle, labelled with the patient’s name and then sent away to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results show?

If levels of lead in the blood are elevated, this means that the patient is in danger of lead poisoning; the higher the level, the greater the risk. A very high level of lead should be treated as a medical emergency and the patient should seek urgent medical attention.

If levels are normal, this usually means that the patient is not at risk of lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning is more dangerous in children so it is important that children who have been exposed to lead get medical attention as quickly as possible; if the condition is left untreated, it could have long-lasting effects for the child.

Specific Blood Tests

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