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Methemoglobinemia is a medical condition characterized by the presence of abnormal levels of methemoglobin rather than haemoglobin in blood. Methemoglobin is a form of haemoglobin that contains Fe3+ ions in it. These ions show a decreased ability to bind oxygen. Symptoms are:
• Shortness of breath
• Change in mental status
• Exercise intolerance
• Loss of hairline
HOW IS METHEMOGLOBINEMIA DIAGNOSED?
This disorder can be diagnosed by a blood test. Babies born with this disorder would have the distinctive blue colour skin.
HOW IS METHEMOGLOBINEMIA TREATED?
Ascorbic acid could be prescribed to patients to reduce the levels of methemoglobin in the blood. Oxygen therapy might also be advised. In severe cases patients could require a blood transfusion.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Congenital – diminished enzymatic reduction of MetHb back to functional Hb. Affected patients appear cyanotic but are generally asymptomatic.
• Acquired – from specific drugs that cause oxidation of Hb to MetHb more rapidly than MetHb is reduced to Hb. Can be fatal.