By | June 10, 2022

Selenoses are symptoms of poisoning that are triggered by an increased intake of the trace element selenium. Too high a selenium concentration can be caused by medication, dietary supplements or water contaminated with selenium. The therapy usually corresponds to a symptomatic treatment.

What is selenosis?

Selenosis is poisoning with selenium. The selenium level in whole blood is normally between 73 and 169. In the case of selenium poisoning, the value exceeds the limit of 169 units. The opposite is referred to as a selenium deficiency and therefore corresponds to falling below the specified standard values. Selenium is a trace element that the body needs in small amounts as a building block for proteins, in the immune system, for cell protection and to activate various hormones. For slang pfeiffer syndrome, please visit

Between around 10 and 20 milligrams of selenium are stored in the adult body. Much of it is stored in the kidneys, liver, muscles and skeleton. The daily selenium requirement for an adult is probably around 0.03 to 0.07 milligrams. This recommended daily dose is usually covered by a balanced diet. Dietary supplementation with the trace element therefore often leads to selenosis. There are selenoses as acute and chronic poisoning.


Selenosis can occur as a result of excessive consumption of products containing selenium and inhalation of selenium dust. Acute poisoning is triggered by consuming three to seven milligrams of selenium in a single day. If chronic poisoning is present, these symptoms are usually associated with a long-term daily dose of more than 0.6 milligrams. In addition to selenium-containing food supplements, selenium-containing tablets and medication are among the most common causes.

Regular inhalation of large amounts of selenium can also cause poisoning over the long term. Since selenium is stored, occasionally minor but regular exceeding of the daily dose can result in poisoning. Selenium poisoning from food is rather rare and only affects food with more than two µg selenium per gram. Poisoning from drinking water only affects areas with contaminated water that contains more than 10 µg selenium per liter.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Selenium poisoning tends to have unspecific early symptoms. For example, nausea occurs, which can be accompanied by diarrhea or vomiting. The stool consistency changes to a watery quality. Because of the high water losses, dehydration can occur. As part of the dehydration, a feeling of weakness sets in.

Selenium poisoning is often also noticeable in symptoms of the musculoskeletal system. For example, muscle weakness and muscle pain are common symptoms. General fatigue can also occur as part of selenosis. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear. For example, a neuropathy of the peripheral nervous system can develop, which manifests itself in sensory disturbances.

In connection with the central nervous system, taste disorders or visual disturbances can occur. At a late stage, those affected often lose their toenails and fingernails. The hair can also fall out. In addition, dermatological complaints such as skin rashes appear as late symptoms.

Diagnosis & course of disease

If selenosis is suspected, the doctor determines the selenium content in the serum. Values ​​above 169 are considered diagnostic. The anamnesis gives him clues as to the possible causes of the poisoning. The prognosis for selenium poisoning is usually favorable. Although lethal poisoning with selenium can occur due to the risk of heart failure and pulmonary edema, it occurs only rarely within Europe and requires the recommended daily dose to be significantly exceeded.

A certain amount of selenium poisoning can at least damage the heart and especially the liver. In addition, selenium can presumably cause malignant cancer and impair lung function in larger quantities.


The complications and symptoms of selenosis depend very much on the amount of selenium supplied. Serious poisoning does not occur in every case, so that treatment is not necessary in every case. Patients typically experience nausea and vomiting.

Diarrhea can also occur, leading to water loss. If the water loss is not replaced, those affected suffer from dehydration. As the disease progresses, selenosis leads to severe pain in the muscles and cramps. The patients appear tired and exhausted and no longer actively participate in everyday life. Symptoms of paralysis or other sensory disturbances can also occur due to selenosis and have a very negative effect on the patient’s everyday life.

If selenosis is not treated, it leads to visual disturbances or hair loss. Selenosis can only be treated by renouncing the element. There are no complications. The individual complaints can usually be treated symptomatically. In most cases, the course of the disease is always positive.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since selenosis is a serious form of poisoning, it should always be treated immediately by a doctor. In the worst case, the affected person can die if the selenosis is not treated at all or is only treated late by a doctor. The earlier selenosis is recognized and treated, the better the further course of this disease is in most cases. A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned has ingested a high amount of selenium. The patients usually suffer from severe nausea or severe diarrhea and also from vomiting. Furthermore, there is a high loss of water and thus also dehydration.

If these symptoms occur, a doctor must be consulted immediately. With a higher amount of selenium, there is also muscle weakness and in some cases also sensory disturbances or taste disturbances. If these occur after taking selenium, you usually have to go to the hospital. Depending on the amount ingested, selenosis can be treated by a general practitioner or by an emergency doctor. Selenosis may also reduce the life expectancy of those affected.

Treatment & Therapy

There is no causal therapy for selenosis. Antidotes for inactivating the substance are not known. Eliminating selenium from the body is also generally not an option. The treatment largely consists of dispensing with the further supply of the trace element. The respective symptoms of selenosis are treated individually and depending on the case. In the case of dehydration, for example, the water balance in the organism must be artificially restored.

Hydration is a crucial step in therapy. This supply can be intravenous if the patient is prone to vomiting. This restoration of the water balance ensures that the patient excretes the excess selenium as quickly as possible. Breathing difficulties caused by selenosis are usually treated with medication. Rarely, the patient is ventilated with oxygen.

Pain – relieving drugs are administered to treat muscle problems. If the nervous system has been damaged by selenosis, physiotherapeutic measures may be necessary. If organ damage occurs, insufficiency of the corresponding organ may occur, which must be combated separately and, in rare cases, necessitates a transplant. Patients must eat a diet low in selenium to prevent further selenosis in the future.


Selenosis can be prevented by eating a diet low in selenium and avoiding dietary supplements containing selenium, as well as medication and inhalation treatments. In selenium-contaminated areas, drinking water is a possible cause of selenosis. Therefore, in such areas, not drinking tap water can also be a preventive measure.


Selenosis requires intensive follow-up treatment, as secondary diseases or the recurrence of selenosis cannot otherwise be ruled out. Most important are regular blood tests to measure selenium and other nutrient levels. If the selenium levels are too high again, a selenium-poor diet must be followed. This consists of not eating rice, salmon, asparagus, mushrooms, Brazil nuts and red cabbage.

However, as soon as normal selenium values ​​are measured again, a switch to a normal diet should take place, otherwise a selenium deficiency can occur. Since dietary supplements containing selenium are often the trigger for selenosis, dietary supplements should only be taken in consultation with the attending physician. If selenosis has already led to neurological symptoms such as memory difficulties, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, drowsiness and/or limb numbness, these must be treated separately, provided they do not disappear when the selenium levels in the blood return to normal.

For this purpose, a neurological presentation with subsequent neurological examinations (MRT, EEG, lumbar puncture) should be carried out. If the nerves are permanently damaged, it may be necessary to take medication for life. If selenosis has been experienced and new muscle problems, hair and/or nail loss, diarrhea and/or neurological symptoms occur, a doctor should also be consulted immediately and a selenium level test carried out in the blood, as these can be signs of renewed selenosis.

You can do that yourself

In the case of selenium poisoning, the doctor must first be consulted. After the disease has been diagnosed and treated by a doctor, it is important to take it easy. In the case of nausea and vomiting, a light diet must be chosen so that the gastrointestinal tract is not exposed to any further stress. If muscle weakness occurs, the car must not be driven. Sick people have to take sick leave and stay in bed for at least one to two weeks.

In the event of hair loss, the family doctor can prescribe other remedies. Normally, however, the hair loss should subside on its own once the selenium has been eliminated. Homeopathic remedies also help against skin lesions. The pain-relieving aloe vera and ointments made from St. John’s wort, which also help against the pain, have proven effective. If the diarrhea persists for a longer period of time, the doctor must be informed. In addition, sufficient water should be drunk. Otherwise, dehydration can occur. It is best to drink healthy teas such as chamomile or lemon balm. In consultation with the family doctor, homeopathic teas can be tried.

If these measures are followed, the symptoms should subside after a short time. The doctor must be informed if there are still signs of selenium poisoning after weeks. Then there may be underlying organ damage that needs to be clarified.