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Porphyria is caused due to disturbances in the metabolic pathways such as heme biosynthetic pathway. The organ affected by this disorder is purely dependent on the enzyme that is responsible for a certain biosynthetic pathway related to the organ. Abnormal forms of porphyrins are released which lead to various clinical manifestations. In many cases porphyria is inherited since it is associated with eight predominant forms of faulty genes which are responsible for neurological or cutaneous diseases.

Types of Porphyria

Porphyria is classified as acute and non-acute forms depending on its organ involvement and pathways affected. Acute Porphyria is more severe and involves neuromuscular discomfort, abdominal pain and also psychiatric complications. Porphyria is often difficult to diagnose because of its neurovisceral involvement which causes symptoms that appear in many other medical conditions. ALA dehydratase deficiency porphyria (ADP): The deficient enzyme that is found in this kind of disorder is the delta amino levulinic acid dehydratase. It is acquired as an autosomal recessive condition. ADP is very rare. Photosensitivity is one of the predominant factors associated. However, this symptom is usually followed by neuro visceral involvement.

Acute Intermittent Porphyria: This acute form of porphyria is caused by porphobilinogen deaminase and it is one of the most common forms of porphyria. It is predominant in females especially during puberty and post menopause. The clinical manifestations include excess urinary formation followed by excretion of precursors associated with porphyrin formation such as ALA and PBG.

Variegate Porphyria: It is caused by the deficiency of protoporphyrinogen oxidase. Most clinical manifestations pertaining to this acute form of porphyria is associated with cutaneous involvement leading to skin lesions.

Hereditary Coproporphyria

: It is caused due to the deficiency of the enzyme coproporphyrinogen oxidase. This form of porphyria is predominantly seen in hepatobilliary disease.

Symptoms of Acute porphyria

Acute forms of porphyria are often fatal if ignored. Symptoms are severe abdominal pains, vomiting and nausea. In case of patients with a history of hypertension, cardiovascular problems might lead to instant death. Other key signs include muscular dystrophy, weakness, radiating pain in the back and extremities. Porphyria has close associations with many psychiatric conditions such as confusion, hallucination, paranoia and disoriented behavior.

Management and treatment of porphyria

The effective management of porphyria is often associated with the accuracy of diagnosis. This can be attained by the measurement of PBG in the urine. Care must be taken while collecting the specimen as the PBG when exposed for a long time to light can lead to the formation of dark red form of because of porphobilin.

Haem arginate administration has to be done carefully through a central line or through a large vein as it is an irritant to the vein. Post infusion, the vein is flushed with sodium chloride. Vein positions have to be changed on alternate days to avoid perivenous inflammations. Appropriate amount of calories have to be given to patients as malnutrition can aggravate the porphyria attacks. Cardiac patients have to be given beta-blockers to prevent tachycardia. Bacterial or viral infections have to be treated prior to the treatment with haem arginate.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: January 31, 2023