Merck Manual

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Zinc Excess

By

Larry E. Johnson

, MD, PhD, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020
Click here for the Professional Version

Zinc excess occurs when the body has too much of the mineral zinc.

Zinc is widely distributed in the body—in bones, teeth, hair, skin, liver, muscle, white blood cells, and testes. It is a component of more than 100 enzymes, including those involved in the formation of RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). (See also Overview of Minerals.)

The level of zinc in the body depends on the amount of zinc consumed in the diet. Zinc is necessary for healthy skin, healing of wounds, and growth.

People rarely consume too much zinc. Usually, zinc excess results from consuming acidic foods or beverages packaged in a zinc-coated (galvanized) container. In certain industries, inhaling zinc oxide fumes can result in zinc excess.

People may have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Inhaling zinc oxide fumes can cause rapid breathing, sweating, fever, and a metallic taste in the mouth—a disorder called metal fume fever. Consuming too much zinc for a long time can reduce the absorption of copper, cause anemia, and impair the immune system.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's evaluation

Doctors suspect excess zinc based on the person’s circumstances and symptoms.

Treatment

  • Dietary changes

Treatment involves reducing zinc consumption.

People with metal fume fever usually recover after being in a zinc-free environment for 12 to 24 hours.

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