Friday, April 5, 2013

The Tea Mistery - Skeletal fluorosis on X-rays

A 47-year-old woman developed a bone disease after drinking a pitcher of tea a day for 17 years!

A woman visited the doctor after suffering pain in her lower back, arms, legs and hips for five years. X-rays revealed areas of very dense bone on the spinal vertebrae and calcifications of ligaments in her arm (see image below). The researchers suspected the woman had skeletal fluorosis, a bone disease caused by consuming too much fluoride (a mineral found in tea as well as drinking water). The patient's blood levels of fluoride were four times higher than what would be considered normal, the researchers said. Skeletal fluorosis is endemic in regions of the world with naturally high levels of fluoride in drinking water, including some parts of India and China, but is rare in Europe and North America.

A few other cases of skeletal fluorosis caused by tea drinking have been reported in the United States. In these cases, patients typically drank a gallon of tea a day. The patient was instructed to stop drinking tea, after which she experienced an improvement in symptoms. The fluoride deposits will gradually go away as the bone remodels (or repairs) itself, a process that occurs frequently in the body.

A description of the case was published on March 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A 47-year-old U.S. woman developed a bone disease rarely seen in the U.S. after consuming an excessive amount of tea. An x-ray showed calcifications on ligaments (left) and areas of dense bone on the spinal vertebrae (right).

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