Complications of carbon monoxide poisoning

Prolonged significant exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious complications, including brain damage and heart problems. In very severe cases, it can result in death.

Effects of severe carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • breathlessness
  • chest pains
  • seizures (fits)
  • loss of consciousness

Around10-15% of people who have severe carbon monoxide poisoning develop long-term complications.

Brain damage

Prolonged exposure tocarbon monoxidecan cause memory problems and difficulty concentrating. It can also cause vision loss and hearing loss .

In rare cases, severe carbon monoxide poisoning can cause Parkinsonism, which is characterised by tremors , stiffness and slow movement.

Parkinsonism isn't the same as Parkinson's disease , which isa degenerative neurological condition linked toageing.

Heart disease

Coronary heart disease is another serious condition thatcan develop as a result of long-term carbon monoxideexposure.

Coronary heart disease is where the heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances (atheroma)in the coronary arteries.

If the blood supply is restricted, it can cause angina (chest pains). Ifthe coronary arteries become completely blocked, it can causea heart attack .

Harm to unborn babies

Long-term exposure tocarbon monoxidegas can also damage an unborn baby. Babies exposed tocarbon monoxideduring pregnancy areat risk of:

  • low birth weight
  • perinatal death ( stillbirth and death that occurswithin the first four weeks of birth)
  • behavioural problems
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018