DH reminds public to consult qualified healthcare professionals for chronic skin conditions

     The Department of Health (DH) today (August 26) reminded members of the public to seek formal care from qualified healthcare professionals for chronic skin conditions, following investigations into three cases of heavy metal poisoning after consumption of medications prescribed outside Hong Kong.

     "Upon notification by the Hospital Authority, we immediately commenced investigations. Laboratory testing has so far detected excessive amounts of arsenic or mercury in samples submitted by the three patients. All three patients have been discharged after treatment and are now in stable condition," a spokesman for the DH said.

     The first patient, a female aged 16, was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital on June 23 for limb numbness and was discharged on August 1. She described a recent history of use of capsules prescribed by a person who claimed to be a doctor in Thailand for treatment of eczema for a few weeks before symptoms appeared. Her urine sample revealed an arsenic level higher than the reference level which was clinically suspected to be related to the use of the above capsules.

     The second female patient was admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital from August 13 to 17 for numbness, weakness, skin pigmentation, increased hair over lower limbs and weight loss after recent consumption of pills for five months. The third patient, a man aged 27, was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital from June 7 to 9 for weakness, numbness, unsteady gait, increased hair over lower limbs and weight loss after recent consumption of pills for two months.

     According to the second and third patients, they consulted a man who claimed to be a Chinese medicine practitioner in Changping, Dongguan, Guangdong, for treatment of psoriasis in February via a tour arranged by an agent in Hong Kong. Both cases were clinically suspected to be related to their use of the above pills.

     "Investigations including the patients' clinical conditions, consumption history and laboratory findings are continuing," the spokesman added.

     Ingestion of toxic amounts of inorganic arsenic can cause different clinical manifestations including numbness and tingling of the extremities, muscle cramping or even death. Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the ability to taste. In severe cases, renal failure can occur.

     "The public should consult qualified healthcare professionals for chronic skin conditions. When seeking consultation outside Hong Kong, pay special attention to ensure that they are qualified or registered with relevant jurisdictions for practising. In case of medications obtained from suspicious or similar sources as reported above, stop further use of them and promptly seek advice from qualified healthcare professionals if experiencing discomfort after consumption," the spokesman advised.

Ends/Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:50