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Acute Porphyria

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is acute porphyria?

Acute porphyria is a disorder that affects how your body makes red blood cells (RBC). Your body needs a chemical called porphyrin to make heme, a part of RBC that carries oxygen. Porphyria prevents your body from creating enough enzymes to control the process, and porphyrin builds up. High levels of porphyrin can cause problems throughout your body, depending on where it builds up. Low levels of heme can also cause organ damage, because your blood cannot bring the organs enough oxygen.

What can trigger an acute porphyria attack?

An acute porphyria attack may happen for no reason. The following can trigger an acute porphyria attack:

What are the signs and symptoms of an acute porphyria attack?

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of an acute porphyria attack. The pain is usually located in the lower abdomen, and may last for hours to days. You may also have any of the following:

How is acute porphyria diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. Your provider will ask about your medical history and if any family members have porphyria or other blood disorders. Samples of your blood, urine, or bowel movement may be collected. Blood tests check for the enzymes needed to control RBC production, and your porphyrin level.

How is acute porphyria treated?

Certain medicines can relieve your symptoms. These may include certain medicines to treat high blood pressure, seizures, pain, nausea, or vomiting. You may also need any of the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I prevent an acute porphyria attack?

What are the risks of acute porphyria?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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