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Photosensitivity or sun sensitivity is a condition where the skin develops rashes to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Typically people are usually sensitive to UVA. But photosensitivity can also occur due to medication allergy or contact with certain chemicals or plant materials. Photo tests are useful in diagnosing photosensitivity by checking the skin with artificial light to test for the rashes. Photo patch is applied on a certain area to check for response. Sun protection is crucial for those suffering photosensitivity. Using sunscreens with high SPF can help. Check out those that do not cause allergic reactions. Topical steroid creams are helpful in tackling sun rashes and itching. voiding bright sunny outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is ideal for those with sun-sensitive skin.


Porphyria refers to a group of rare genetic disorders that result from abnormalities in the heme biosynthesis pathway, leading to the accumulation of porphyrins or porphyrin precursors in the body. Heme is an essential component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells.

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.

Acute Porphyria

: Acute porphyrias include acute intermittent porphyria (AIP), hereditary coproporphyria (HCP), variegate porphyria (VP), and ALA dehydratase deficiency porphyria (ADP). These types primarily affect the nervous system and can cause acute attacks with symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, muscle weakness, and neurological manifestations like peripheral neuropathy, seizures, and psychiatric disturbances. These attacks can be triggered by certain drugs, hormones, fasting, alcohol, and stress.

Cutaneous porphyria

: Cutaneous porphyrias include porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT), erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), congenital erythropoietic porphyria (CEP), and hepatoerythropoietic porphyria (HEP). Cutaneous porphyrias primarily affect the skin and may cause photosensitivity, blistering, skin fragility, and hyperpigmentation upon sun exposure. PCT is the most common type and is associated with liver dysfunction, iron overload, and hepatitis C infection.

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

Diagnosis of porphyria involves a combination of clinical evaluation, biochemical testing, and genetic analysis. Urinary and/or plasma levels of porphyrins, porphobilinogen, and delta-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) are measured to identify specific porphyria types. Genetic testing can confirm the specific genetic mutation causing the disorder.

Treatment of porphyria aims to manage symptoms, prevent attacks, and minimize complications. This may involve avoiding triggers such as certain medications and substances, maintaining a healthy diet, and managing pain and neurological symptoms. In some cases, intravenous heme therapy may be used to reduce porphyrin buildup and alleviate symptoms during acute attacks.

Overall, porphyria is a complex group of disorders requiring a multidisciplinary approach involving hematologists, geneticists, and dermatologists to diagnose, manage, and provide long-term care to affected individuals. Genetic counseling is also crucial for affected individuals and their families due to the hereditary nature of the disorder. 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.

Bloom's syndrome

Bloom's syndrome is a rare autosomal disorder. It is also known as congenital telangiectatic erythema. It is characterized by intense photosensitive nature leading to the hindrance in the growth and development of the fetus This disorder is triggered as a result of genetic mutation which creates a biochemical malfunction in the body by enhancing the superoxide radical anion production. In most cases, Bloom's disorder occurs among exclusive tribes of Jews. The effects of Bloom's syndrome is predominantly on the reproductive system as it decreases the sperm count and also causes premature delivery and provokes the onset of diabetes. Since Bloom's syndrome is related to photosensitivity, the only known form of treatment is through avoiding exposure high intensity light rays.

Tags: #Photosensitivity #Porphyria #Bloom's syndrome
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: April 17, 2024