What are the causes of porphyria?

Most porphyrias are inherited disorders, meaning they are caused by abnormalities in genes passed from parents to children. Scientists have identified the genes for all eight enzymes in the heme pathway. Some forms of porphyria result from inheriting an abnormal gene from one parent. Other forms are due to inheriting two abnormal genes-one from each parent. The risk that members of an affected family will have the disease, or transmit it to their children, depends on the type of porphyria.

One type of porphyria-porphyria cutanea tarda-is most often an acquired disorder. It occurs when factors other than genes cause an enzyme deficiency in the liver.

Porphyria can be triggered by any of the following:

Drugs such as barbiturates, tranquilizers, birth control pills, and sedatives
Drinking alcohol, especially heavy drinking Infections Excess iron in the body
Emotional and physical stress
Menstrual hormones
Exposure to the sun.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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