I love medicine. To me as a layman, it appears as if there are more namnes for diseases than there are people on this Earth. (Please, do not quote me on that.)

Today I stumbled upon a rare condition called sulfhemoglobinemia. It means that your blood contains an unhealthy level of sulfhemoglobin (SulfHb), which is an unnatural sulfur analog of hemoglobin – you know the red portion of blood that delivers oxygen to cells so they can breathe.

The cool thing about sulfhemoglobin is that it is very, very, very green. If you suffer from sulfhemoglobinemia, your blood is green, not red. (cf. A groundbreaking television series from 1983.)

Also, I like brimstone (also known as sulfur*) in general, mainly because of its unparalleled versatility in organic synthesis.

Today I learned that some common drugs that contain sulfur, most notably sulfonamides, may induce this bizarre condition if taken in huge excess.

This just in (as I edited this post): Whoa…It is believed that Lord Kelvin suffered from sulfhemoglobinemia. Cool! (Pun intended.) You may have heard of him.

Take home-message: Next time you encounter green blood, think before you cry lizard. At least consider this differential. (Yeah, I sometimes watch House, M.D…)


* Contrary to common belief among the British, “sulfur” is not an American bastardized (-ised) spelling form of “sulphur”. In fact IUPAC, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Nature Publishing Group and the Oxford Dictionary say: “In chemistry… the -f- spelling is now the standard form in all related words in the field in both British and US contexts.” For the record, also to add to the overall confusion and chiefly because I really like the sound of it, I prefer “brimstone.”


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