A 67-year-old man presented with 5 months of worsening memory impairment and sensory gait ataxia on the background of symptomatic anaemia. He experienced falls, agitation and became socially withdrawn over 3 weeks, resulting in hospital admission. On examination, he had sensory gait ataxia consistent with a dorsal column syndrome. He scored 13/30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Serum analysis showed normocytic anaemia and leucopenia, severe hypocupraemia, reduced caeruloplasmin and normal zinc levels. Overuse of zinc-containing denture cream was the cause of excess zinc ingestion and resultant copper deficiency, leading to blood dyscrasia and myelopathy. The cream was withdrawn and intravenous and then oral copper supplementation was implemented. Direct questions with regard to excess zinc in the diet and serological testing of copper and zinc should be considered in any patient with a dorsal column syndrome, particularly with concurrent anaemia. Copper deficiency may also have a role in exacerbating pre-existing cognitive impairment.
- haematology (incl blood transfusion)
- drugs: gastrointestinal system
- memory disorders
- spinal cord
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RJ and OWD contributed equally.
Contributors RJ and OWD contributed equally to the generation of this manuscript and should be identified as such. They gained consent, prepared the manuscript and responded to comments from Dr LSC and Dr GSP. Dr LSC reviewed the manuscript, offered suggestions and arranged submission. Dr GSP reviewed the manuscript on multiple occasions and was the responsible clinician for the case in question.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.