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Risk Factors & Complications of All Porphyrias by Mayo Clinic

Risk factors

By Mayo Clinic Staff
In addition to genetic risks, environmental factors may trigger the development of signs and symptoms in some types of porphyria. When exposed to the trigger, your body's demand for heme production increases. This overwhelms the deficient enzyme, setting in motion a process that causes signs and symptoms. Examples of triggers include:
  • Certain drugs (barbiturates or sulfonamide antibiotics or, less often, birth control pills, or some drugs that affect the mind or behavior, known as psychoactive drugs)
  • Chemicals
  • Dieting or fasting
  • Smoking
  • Physical stress, such as infections or other illnesses
  • Liver disease
  • Emotional stress
  • Alcohol use
  • Menstrual hormones
  • Sun exposure
  • Excess iron in your body

Complications

By Mayo Clinic Staff
Possible complications of porphyria include:
  • Dehydration. Vomiting due to an attack of acute porphyria can lead to dehydration, which may require that you receive fluids through a vein (intravenously).
  • Breathing difficulties. Acute porphyrias can cause muscle weakness and paralysis, which can cause breathing problems. If left untreated, they can also lead to respiratory failure.
  • Low sodium in your blood. Called hyponatremia, this is usually linked to problems with sodium and water handling in your body.
  • High blood pressure. Porphyrin buildup can damage your kidneys and may result in high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Chronic kidney failure. Porphyrin buildup may cause your kidneys to gradually lose their ability to function.
  • Liver damage. Some forms of porphyria cause excessive porphyrins in your liver, which may lead to severe liver damage that can eventually require a liver transplant.
  • Permanent skin damage. When your skin heals after cutaneous porphyria, it may have an abnormal appearance and coloring. Scars may remain on your skin as well, and lasting skin problems may cause your hair to fall out.
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