Ergotism

Ergotism
Barger.TIF
Advanced ergotism with gangrene
SpecialtyEmergency medicine Edit this on Wikidata

Ergotism (pron. m/ UR-gət-iz-əm) is the effect of long-term ergot poisoning, traditionally due to the ingestion of the alkaloids produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus that infects rye and other cereals, and more recently by the action of a number of ergoline-based drugs. It is also known as ergotoxicosis, ergot poisoning and Saint Anthony's Fire.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms can be roughly divided into convulsive symptoms and gangrenous symptoms.

Convulsive

Convulsive symptoms of ergotism

Convulsive symptoms include painful seizures and spasms, diarrhea, paresthesias, itching, mental effects including mania or psychosis, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Usually the gastrointestinal effects precede central nervous system effects.

Gangrenous

The dry gangrene is a result of vasoconstriction induced by the ergotamine-ergocristine alkaloids of the fungus. It affects the more poorly vascularized distal structures, such as the fingers and toes. Symptoms include desquamation or peeling, weak peripheral pulses, loss of peripheral sensation, edema and ultimately the death and loss of affected tissues. Vasoconstriction is treated with vasodilators.[1]