Aluminum toxicity is a prime suspect in dialysis encephalopathy, a frequently fatal complication of long-term hemodialysis that first was recognized in 1972. Recently the problem became the subject of a government epidemiologic investigation.
Patients in whom this problem develops experience increasingly severe neurological and motor difficulties. There may be seizures that do not respond to anticonvulsant drugs. Motor control degenerates until the patients become immobile. Speech grows hesitant, then is complicated by stuttering, inability to think of the desired word, and problems in structuring sentences, finally resulting in a total inability to talk.
This condition also is known as dialysis dementia because patients often deteriorate intellectually, become depressed or paranoid, hallucinate, or have other psychoses. The diagnosis usually is made on the basis of these clinical findings.
Because of the variety of problems that may develop, and because exposure to aluminum has not been proved to be the cause, investigators