Cutaneous abnormalities and metabolic disturbance of porphyrins in patients on maintenance haemodialysis

G E Gibson, E McGinnity, P McGrath, M Carmody, J Walshe, J Donohoe, R O'Moore, G M Murphy
Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 1997, 22 (3): 124-7
Blistering disorders may occur in patients with chronic renal failure. Photoactive medication may account for some, and others may be attributable to porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT), but most appear idiopathic. Seventy haemodialysis patients at the National Renal Transplant Centre were therefore screened to determine the prevalence of cutaneous disease and to establish a reference range for plasma porphyrins in this population. The possible contribution of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection to increased porphyrin levels in this group was also investigated. Ninety four percent of patients on haemodialysis had dermatoses associated with chronic uraemia, and the plasma porphyrin levels in those patients (mean +/- 2 S.D.: 19.1 +/- 13.5 nmol/L) were significantly higher than those of a normal population (n = 40; mean +/- 2 S.D.: 5.5 +/- 3.2 nmol/L) (p < 0.05). Only 2 patients (2.9%), however, had antibodies to HCV and although three others had blistering on light-exposed skin, none of these had PCT or was on photoactive medication, nor did they differ from the rest of the haemodialysis population with regard to erythropoietin or alcohol ingestion. For patients on haemodialysis, therefore, in whom urinary porphyrin estimation is impossible or unreliable, it is recommended that plasma porphyrin profiles be checked where necessary with reference to the range for a haemodialysis population, in addition to assessment of the faecal porphyrin profile. Abnormal porphyrin levels in this group may not, however, be explained by HCV infection, but the occurrence of blistering on the sun-exposed sites of 3 patients suggests that ultraviolet radiation may be implicated in those instances.

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