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Porphyria Cutanea Tarda


Porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT)

is a disorder that causes skin to form blisters or lesions when exposed to sunlight. PCT is a form of porphyria, a disorder that affects how your body makes red blood cells (RBC). A chemical called porphyrin builds up in your skin. Proteins are released that cause the skin to become overly sensitive to sunlight. Skin lesions or blisters form where the skin was exposed to sunlight. PCT can be genetic or caused by exposure to certain chemicals or infections.

What triggers a PCT attack:

  • Cigarettes and alcohol
  • Infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis C or HIV
  • Iron-related diseases, such as hemochromatosis, which causes too much iron to build up in body tissues
  • Hemodialysis to filter the blood for long-term kidney failure
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Birth control pills and estrogen hormone therapy for treating prostate cancer

Signs and symptoms of PCT

are mostly in the skin and are worse during summer. You may have any of the following:

  • Blisters on exposed skin that can become crusted, scarred, and take a long time to heal
  • Delicate skin that is easily damaged by small injuries, such as scratches or burns
  • Skin color that is too light or too dark
  • More hair growth on your face, or no hair growth on your scalp


Healthcare providers may suggest that you avoid the conditions and substances that trigger PCT. You may also need any of the following:

  • Malaria medicines remove excess porphyrins from your liver.
  • Phlebotomy is a procedure used to remove blood through your vein. This decreases the porphyrin levels in your liver and blood.

Prevent a PCT attack:

  • Do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Cigarettes and alcohol may damage your liver and make your PCT worse. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have trouble quitting smoking or drinking.
  • Be careful with medicines. Ask your healthcare provider if any of the medicines you take can trigger a PCT attack.
  • Protect your skin. Keep your skin protected from sun and scratches. Wear lightweight, loose, and light-colored clothing. Protect your head and neck with a hat or umbrella when you are outdoors. Wear sunscreen that has a sun protectant factor (SPF) approved by your healthcare provider. Follow the directions on the label when you use sunscreen.

Wound care:

Your skin blisters may get infected and take a long time to heal. Ask your healthcare provider about how to care for your skin blisters at home.

  • Wash your hands before and after you take care of your wound.
  • Clean your blisters with mild soap and water, and pat dry. Do this as often as ordered by your healthcare provider. If you cannot reach the wound, have someone help you.
  • Carefully check the blister and the area around it. Watch for any swelling, redness, or fluid oozing out of it. Apply gentle pressure to stop any bleeding.
  • Cover your wound with a layer of sterile gauze bandage. If the bandage should be wrapped around your arm or leg, wrap it snugly but not too tight. It is too tight if you feel tingling or lose feeling in that area.
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry.

Follow up with your doctor or hematologist as directed:

If you have a liver or kidney disease, it is especially important to keep all appointments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Porphyria Cutanea Tarda (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

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