Acute Intermittent Porphyria: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Acute Intermittent Porphyria (AIP) is a rare metabolic disorder that affects the production of heme, a critical component of hemoglobin and other enzymes. AIP can lead to the buildup of certain chemicals called porphyrins, causing a range of symptoms that can be severe and life-threatening. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for acute intermittent porphyria, providing valuable insights into this complex and challenging condition.


Acute Intermittent Porphyria is one of the various types of porphyria, which are genetic disorders related to heme production. Heme is essential for the proper functioning of hemoglobin, the molecule responsible for carrying oxygen in red blood cells, and other enzymes involved in essential body processes. In AIP, the body does not produce enough of an enzyme called porphobilinogen deaminase, leading to the accumulation of porphyrins in the liver and other tissues.


The symptoms of Acute Intermittent Porphyria can vary and may include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Neurological symptoms, such as muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Mental disturbances, including anxiety, confusion, and hallucinations
  • Skin sensitivity to sunlight


AIP is a genetic disorder, typically inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning that a person needs to inherit a faulty gene from only one parent to develop the condition. The underlying cause of AIP is the deficiency of the porphobilinogen deaminase enzyme, which leads to the abnormal accumulation of porphyrins in the body. Certain triggers, such as hormonal changes, fasting, alcohol consumption, and some medications, can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with AIP.


Diagnosing Acute Intermittent Porphyria involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Urine and blood tests: These tests can detect the presence of porphyrins and their precursors, helping to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Genetic testing: Genetic testing can identify mutations in the porphobilinogen deaminase gene and confirm the diagnosis in individuals with a family history of AIP.
  • Other tests: Additional tests may be conducted to assess liver function and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.


Managing Acute Intermittent Porphyria typically involves preventing and managing acute attacks and minimizing triggers. Treatment options may include:

  • Intravenous glucose: Providing glucose intravenously during an acute attack can help suppress the production of porphyrins and alleviate symptoms.
  • Pain relief: Medications for pain management may be prescribed during acute attacks.
  • Heme therapy: In severe cases or when other treatments are ineffective, heme therapy may be used to reduce the accumulation of porphyrins.
  • Avoiding triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers, such as certain medications and fasting, can help prevent acute attacks.


Preventing acute attacks of AIP involves understanding and avoiding triggers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking prompt medical attention when symptoms worsen.


Acute Intermittent Porphyria is a rare genetic disorder that affects heme production, leading to the accumulation of porphyrins and a range of symptoms, including severe abdominal pain, neurological issues, and skin sensitivity. Early diagnosis and proper management are crucial in preventing complications and improving quality of life for individuals with AIP. If you suspect you or a loved one may have AIP or experience symptoms of an acute attack, seek immediate medical attention for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and treatment options specific to your condition.