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What is the function of cholinesterase?

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Quick Answer

The function of the cholinesterase is to break down a chemical called acetylcholine. Cholinesterase ensures that the nervous system works properly by preventing the accumulation of acetylcholine and the overstimulation of muscles and nerves.

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There are three different types of cholinesterase produced in the human body. Cholinesterase found in red blood cells is called true cholinesterase. If the cholinesterase does not break down the acetylcholine, symptoms of overstimulation of muscle and nerve fibers can include uncontrollable twitching, convulsions, difficulty in breathing or death. Exposure to certain types of pesticides, such as dimethoate, formetanate and pinmicarb can prevent cholinesterase from doing its job properly. The length of the exposure, the amount of pesticides present and the method of exposure affect the degree and type of symptoms that individuals experience. Mild exposure can result in nausea and dizziness, whereas severe exposure can result in diarrhea, irregular heartbeat and pain in the abdomen.

Plasma cholinesterase and true cholinesterase are measured during a cholinesterase blood test. The test helps doctors determine whether or not an individual is poisoned, and to what degree, by examining the measurement of cholinesterase as a percentage of the individual's blood sample. People who work with chemicals and pesticides on a daily basis should have their cholinesterase levels tested regularly.

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