If someone were to be poisoned with arsenic for a long period, how might this affect them? What symptoms might they show, and what long-term effects might it have on them?
Hey there nonny! There’s an excellent chapter in Deborah Blum’s book [The Poisoner’s Handbook], which is a phenomenal history of poisoning and the development of forensic pathology as a whole, devoted to arsenic poisoning.
Arsenic is a great mimic of other diseases, which means that it’s fairly easy to hide. In chronic poisoning like the one you describe, it causes skin lesions – either hyper or hypopigmentation, skin scaling. Hypertension. Kidney damage is very common. Fingernails develop whitish lines.
Arsenic survivors have an increased tendency to develop cancer of the lungs, the bladder, the liver and the skin.
But in acute poisonings – even those not severe enough to be lethal – arsenic produces gastrointestinal symptoms first, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain. Garlicky odor on the breath. Bloody vomit. Severe, watery diarrhea. Hepatitis. Arrhythmia, shock, hypotension.
If the initial poisoning is survived, neurological problems are common and onset about 1-3 weeks after the poisoning. These include weakness, tingling, and sensory loss in the limbs which is rapidly ascending. It’s a form of bilateral neuropathy.
One interesting thing about arsenic poisoning is that it tends to leave surprisingly well-preserved corpses. The arsenic prevents decomposition of the bodies by being toxic to the bacteria that typically break down the body. Bodies buried a year after dying of arsenic poisoning “did not differ from a living person” in appearance, according to a quote in Blum’s book.
I hope this helped!!