What are the symptoms of Porphyria

Updated at: Aug 14, 2014
What are the symptoms of Porphyria

The signs and symptoms of porphyria vary among types. Some types of porphyria cause the skin to become overly sensitive to sunlight. Sudden painful skin redness and swelling may also occur.

Ariba Khaliq
Blood DiseasesWritten by: Ariba KhaliqPublished at: Jul 01, 2011

Porphyrin in your body links to a protein present in the red blood cells, binds iron, and carries oxygen to the various organs and tissues in your body. All in all, it is essential for hemoglobin to function normally. When high levels natural chemicals that produce porphyrin build-up in your body, a group of disorders occur, known as porphyria.

Symptoms of Porphyria

The disorder can be characterized into two categories:

Acute porphyria- It mainly affects the nervous system and causes symptoms that can appear quickly and can be life-threatening. Women rarely develop acute porphyria before puberty and after menopause. Symptoms of this disorder may last for a week or two and generally get better gradually after the attack.

Symptoms of Porphyria

Possible signs and symptoms of acute porphyria include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Swelling of the abdomen (abdominal distention)
  • Pain in your chest, legs or back
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Heartbeat you can feel (palpitations)
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Mental changes, such as confusion, hallucinations, disorientation or paranoia
  • Breathing problems
  • Muscle pain, tingling, numbness, weakness or paralysis
  • Red or brown urine

Cutaneous porphyrias- It affects the skin and causes symptoms when your skin is overly sensitive to sunlight. Nervous system is usually not affected by this kind. It may take several days for the attacks to end and some sign and symptoms may show up as early as during infancy or childhood.

As a result of sun exposure, you may experience:

  • Sensitivity to the sun and sometimes artificial light, causing burning pain
  • Sudden painful skin redness (erythema) and swelling (edema)
  • Blisters that take weeks to heal
  • Itching
  • Fragile skin
  • Scars or skin color changes from healing blisters
  • Increased hair growth
  • Red or brown urine

If you experience severe abdominal pain, sensitivity to the sun or red or brown urine, you should promptly seek medical attention.

Image Courtesy: Getty

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