What are acute porphyrias?

Acute porphyrias are also known as hepatic porphyrias, because one cause of acute porphyrias is liver disease, such as alcoholic liver disease. They affect mainly the nervous system. Signs and symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain, possibly with diarrhoea or constipation
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • muscle weakness
  • mental changes such as hallucinations, anxiety, depression
  • changes in how fast or how regularly the heart is beating
  • photosensitivity in some acute porphyrias – this might give the form of an itchy, reddened rash

Treatment for acute porphyrias includes a high carbohydrate diet, and giving heme arginate early on during attacks – this can shorten the attack and make it less intense. It is also important that symptoms be controlled – painkillers can be given for the pain (which is usually very severe).

Photosensitivity Guide Index:

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