Homeowners who receive their drinking water from a well often have concerns about its possible contaminants, such as heavy metals. One of the more common metals to find its way into well water is iron. Iron oxides and salts found in nature may work their way into a well water supply with no obvious signs, depending on the concentration. Individuals who consume water contaminated with iron for a prolonged period may develop iron toxicity, a potentially deadly condition. Recognizing the symptoms can help catch the condition before it progresses to a more serious stage.
Typically, the first symptoms of iron toxicity from well water are related to the gastrointestinal tract because iron has a corrosive effect on the lining of the stomach. Initial symptoms are usually abdominal pain and diarrhea and there may also be a metallic taste in the mouth. Nausea and vomiting are common as well and in some advanced cases individuals suffering from iron toxicity may have blood in their vomit or stool.
The loss of fluids often leads to dehydration and in more extreme cases, shock. In severe instances of well water iron toxicity, liver enzymes may become elevated and liver failure may occur. As a result, jaundice can also be a symptom.
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Symptoms
With continued exposure, individuals who contract iron toxicity from the ingestion of tainted well water may experience rapid breathing and fluid build-up in the lungs. The heart rate often increases as well, and blood pressure may begin to drop. The blood may also be unable to clot properly. In addition, an individual with iron toxicity often has a fast and weak pulse.
Nervous System Symptoms
Exposure to iron toxicity from well water may be accompanied by a headache, dizziness, fever and chills. Individuals often feel drowsy and may become unconscious. Irritability, confusion and lethargy are also common symptoms and seizures may occur. In extreme cases of iron toxicity, individuals may fall into a coma.
Individuals who suffer from iron toxicity due to well water consumption may also demonstrate visible symptoms. Their skin, fingernails and lips often appear bluish due to low oxygen levels in the body. Flushing may also result, or the skin loses its color, giving it a pale appearance. In cases when iron toxicity progresses further along to affect the liver, the skin may take on a yellow cast known as jaundice.