9 Risk Factors for Porphyrias

Porphyrias are different disorders that can occur when the natural chemicals that produce porphyrin begin to accumulate in your body’s systems. Typically, the symptoms of these disorders occur in the part of your body where the porphyrin builds up. For example, acute porphyrias tend to affect the nervous system, and the symptoms can come on suddenly and continue to increase over several weeks. With cutaneous porphyrias, your skin exhibits the most symptoms. Some people have several different types of porphyrias that generate symptoms throughout their body.

All of the different porphyrias are caused by a disruption in the body’s production of heme, which is an important component of hemoglobin. Since heme production involves eight different enzymes, you may find out that you are deficient in one or more of these enzymes if you are diagnosed with a type of porphyria. The specific enzymatic deficiency that exists determines the type of porphyria that you have.

Although most of the types of porphyria are inherited, you should be aware that there are risk factors involved that can make it more likely for you to develop one of these disorders. Acquired types of porphyrias are caused by enzyme deficiencies that are triggered by other issues within the body such as liver disease. Additionally, people who have already been diagnosed with porphyrias will find that indulging in certain activities or behaviors can trigger their symptoms to become worse.

1. Exposure to Sunlight

Today, it is widely understood that exposure to sunlight has benefits as well as drawbacks for bodily processes. For instance, your body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D and stimulate processes in the liver that affect heme levels in your body. However, too much sunlight can also serve as a trigger for your cutaneous types of porphyria. After exposure to sunlight, symptoms such as redness and swelling may appear that cause pain and burning sensations. Depending upon the type of porphyria that you have, you may also experience blisters on exposed skin, itching as well as changes in the pigmentation of your skin. To prevent these uncomfortable symptoms, you must take steps to minimize your exposure to sunlight such as wearing sunblock and avoiding being outside during the prime times of the day.