Acrodermatitis enteropathica is an inherited disorder caused by malabsorption of zinc. Infants develop growth retardation, severe diarrhoea, hair loss and associated Candida and bacterial infections. This condition provides a model for zinc deficiency.
Zinc supplementation results in a complete cure. Deficiency probably also plays a role in PEM.
Zinc levels have been shown to be low in some patients with malabsorption or skin disease, and in patients with AIDS, but the exact role of zinc in these situations is disputed.
Zinc has low toxicity, but high zinc levels from water stored in galvanized containers interfere with iron and copper metabolism.
Wound healing is impaired with moderate zinc deficiency and is improved by zinc supplements. Impaired taste and smell, hair loss and night blindness are also features of severe zinc deficiency.
Symptoms of Acrodermatitis enteropathica
Symptoms of acrodermatitis enteropathica include skin lesions, hair loss, and diarrhea. If untreated, the condition can result in death during infancy or early childhood.
Skin around the fingernails may be red and swollen.
Physical examination revealed erythema, blisters, pustules, ulcers, and weeping yellowish areas of both lower extremities.
Following two biopsies and the demonstration of abnormally low zinc levels on two occasions, the patient was placed on zinc supplementation.
Levels of niacin, glucagon, and folate were normal. All of his lesions, with the exception of the ulcers, disappeared over a two week period.
Treatment of Acrodermatitis enteropathica
People with acrodermatitis enteropathica need to be monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure that their level of zinc supplementation is adequate and that the zinc supplements are not inducing a copper deficiency.