At-Home Treatments for Porphyria
What is porphyria?
Porphyria is a group of rare disorders that affect the skin (cutaneous porphyria) and nervous system (acute porphyria). It involves a buildup of natural chemicals called porphyrins in the body. Porphyrins are necessary for the production of heme, which is a part of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to organs and tissues.
In order to convert porphyrins into heme, eight enzymes are needed. Without these enzymes, porphyrins build up in the body. This results in major issues, especially regarding the nervous system and skin.
At-home treatment options
The treatment for porphyria depends upon the type. At-home treatment options include determining and avoiding triggers, minimizing sun exposure, nutrition, and vitamin D.
Discover and avoid triggers
A large portion of treating porphyria involves avoiding triggers. To prevent triggers, a person must determine what the triggers are. Infections, illness, and hormone changes, such as premenstrual symptoms, can be triggers. Others may include environmental factors, such as the following:
- Recreational or illicit drugs
- Heaving drinking of Alcohol
- Medications and supplements
Minimizing sun exposure
For those with cutaneous porphyria, it is important to minimize sun exposure. An opaque blocking sunscreen, with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, is recommended when outdoors. For limited periods of sun exposure, a sun protection factor, or SPF, 30 is sufficient; however, longer periods require an SPF 50 or higher. Window filters are beneficial while indoors. UV resistant clothing is also available.
Nutrition changes may be recommended for the management of symptoms, including a high intake of carbohydrates and calorie-rich foods. A health care professional should be consulted prior to beginning any type of diet or fasting, as calorie restriction can trigger attacks.
Due to the need to decrease sun exposure, individuals with porphyria often experience low levels of vitamin D. Dietary supplements may be appropriate to replace vitamin D that is lost by avoiding sunlight.