What Is Chester Porphyria?
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Chester Porphyria - Cause, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Oct 07, 2022 and last reviewed on Jun 27, 2023   -  4 min read


Porphyria results from a predominantly inherited catalytic defect of certain enzymes in heme biosynthesis. Read the article below.


Acute porphyria affected a large relative in Chester and was the descendant of a marriage that gave birth to 200 offspring in 1896. This is the most prominent porphyry family identified in the United Kingdom. Six members under 51 have died of the disease in the last eight years. The diagnosis of porphyria has been overlooked because the symptoms may resemble those of other acute illnesses and result in incomplete or inaccurate death certificates.

Psychosis, high blood pressure, and kidney complications are prevalent. Members of the family porphyria present an unexplained hereditary disorder in which the characteristic enzymatic defects of acute intermittent porphyria and variegated porphyria coexist in the same individual. Acute porphyria is not well understood by hospitals and general practitioners, which raises concerns among loved ones. Family members with established kinship registration and at risk should be provided with biochemical screening, education, and genetic counseling.

Urinary porphyrin excretion patterns range from acute intermittent porphyria to variegate porphyria. Chester porphyria shows reduced enzyme activity in both porphobilinogen deaminase and protoporphyrinogen oxidase (an enzyme with reduced activity in acute intermittent porphyria) and protoporphyrinogen oxidase (an enzyme with reduced activity in variegate porphyria).

What Is Chester Porphyria?

Porphyria is a congenital metabolic disorder in which a defect in a specific enzyme in the heme synthesis pathway. Chester porphyria is a unique type with a clinical picture of acute intermittent porphyria and biochemical defects in both acute intermittent porphyria and mottled porphyria.

What Causes Chester Porphyria?

Genetic studies have linked the Chester porphyria gene to chromosome arm 11q. Factors that promote Chester porphyria attacks include the following drugs:

  • Barbiturates- Barbiturates are a group of medicines in the class known as sedative-hypnotics, which generally describe the effects of promoting sleep and reducing anxiety.

  • Aluminum Hydroxide- Aluminum hydroxide is used to relieve heartburn, hyperacidity, and pain associated with gastric ulcers and promote the healing of gastric ulcers.

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants- Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants affect chemicals in the brain to relieve the symptoms of depression.

  • Alcohol- Alcohol is a porphyrin-producing substance that can cause impaired porphyrin metabolism in healthy people and the biochemical and clinical manifestations of acute and chronic hepatic porphyria.

Other triggering factors are:

  • Smoking- Tobacco smoking is also involved in triggering the porphyria crisis.

  • Surgery- General anesthesia and surgery pose a life-threatening porphyria crisis.

  • Metabolic Disorders- Hyponatremia is a common feature during acute neurological seizures that characterize signs of hepatic porphyria and its severity.

What Are the Symptoms Seen With Chester Porphyria?

Patients with Chester porphyria may present with the following physical findings:

  • Increased blood pressure is consistent with hypertension.

  • Motor neuropathy is suggested by flaccid paralysis.

  • Presence of psychosis (delusions and hallucinations).

  • Tachyarrhythmia (a heart rhythm with a ventricular rate of 100 beats per minute or greater).

  • Epilepsy (a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures).

  • Renal insufficiency (a condition in which the kidneys lose the ability to remove waste and balance fluids).

How Is Chester Porphyria Diagnosed?

Laboratory tests for Chester porphyria include:

  • A porphyrin urine test is recommended if an acute attack of porphyria is clinically suspected.

  • In suspicious cases, genetic testing can be performed.

Other issues to consider in the differential diagnosis are

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (with abdominal pain). It is a life-threatening condition caused due to insulin deficency that, in turn, will prevent glucose utilization. As a result of this, ketones are used for energy production leading to hyperglycemia, ketoacidosis, and ketonuria.

  • Polyneuropathy. It is a condition in which the peripheral nerves that are present outside the brain and spinal cord are affected, leading to weakness, numbness, and loss of body function.

  • Dorsal tab(with abdominal pain).

  • Uremia (with abdominal pain).

  • Vasculitis (polyarteritis nodosa, lead or arsenic), myopathy, hystery.

  • Other porphyrias such as variegate porphyria, acute porphyria, and acute intermittent porphyria. Porphyria occurs due to excess production of porphyrin.

How Is Chester Porphyria Treated?

Chester porphyria does not have a cure. Management aims to avoid the triggering factors in the event of suspected porphyria.

  • Treatment includes supportive care with an IV (intravenous) drip and pain management.

  • Effective therapies for acute intermittent porphyria and atypical porphyria are expected to benefit patients with Chester porphyria.

  • Genetic counseling and understanding the disease can help the family.

  • Patients with porphyria in Chester are at risk of having an acute attack of porphyria during surgery. This is due to stress, metabolic disorders, and certain medications used during surgery.

  • A balanced diet is essential for maintaining the health of patients with chronic illnesses. In addition, dietary counseling helps identify triggers and possible nutritional support that help prevent seizures and maintain weight during seizures.

  • Regular activities to maintain good health are an essential part of the treatment of Chester porphyria.

What Is the Prognosis for Chester Porphyria?

Chester porphyria has a high mortality rate. Many members of the Chester family suffered from high blood pressure and kidney disease. Significant morbidity is associated with a painful porphyria crisis in patients with porphyria in Chester. Tracing the ancestors of the Chester family, we find that 14 members suffered from peripheral neuropathy. Six of the 14 developed bulbar palsy, resulting in the death of four.

What are the complications?

Complications of Chester porphyria include

  • Malignant hypertension.

  • Renal insufficiency.

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage, is an emergency in which blood vessels of the brain rupture and cause bleeding inside the brain.

  • Bulbar palsy. It refers to a condition in which the lower cranial nerves (9, 10, 11, and 12) are affected.

  • Retinal hemorrhage (bleeding in the retina).

  • Hyponatremia (also listed as a causative factor). This is a condition characterized by abnormally low levels of sodium in the circulation.

  • Peripheral neuropathy.

  • Myopathy. Myopathy refers to a group of neuromuscular problems characterized by muscle weakness and pain.

  • Coma and death.


Chester porphyria is a unique form of porphyria with signs and symptoms of acute intermittent porphyria (AIP) and biochemical defects in both AIP and atypical porphyria (VP). Chester porphyria does not correspond to any of the recognized acute porphyrias. However, symptoms associated with Chester porphyria are similar to those with other acute porphyrias. Treatment is done symptomatically, and as such, any new symptom occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Types of Porphyria?

Porphyria is a group of disorders that affect the skin and nervous system. It can be broadly classified as acute and cutaneous; however, there are eight types of porphyria depending on the deficient enzyme such as:
- Acute intermittent porphyria.
- Hereditary coproporphyria.
- Delta-aminolevulinate-dehydratase deficiency porphyria.
- Variegate porphyria.
- Porphyria cutanea tarda.
- Congenital erythropoietic porphyria.
- Erythropoietic porphyria.
- Hepatoerythropoietic porphyria.


What Stimulates Porphyria?

Porphyria is a genetic disorder, but certain environmental conditions can trigger the condition, such as:
- Certain medications, such as hormonal drugs.
- Sunlight exposure.
- Fasting or dieting.
- Recreational drugs.
- Physical disorders such as infections.
- Smoking.
- Emotional stress.
- Use of alcohol.


Is Porphyria a Mental Disorder?

Porphyria is a metabolic disorder that occurs due to the accumulation of substances necessary for synthesizing heme. It can have nervous system implications or cutaneous manifestations. In some cases, it may be difficult to identify the symptoms affecting the nervous system; thereby, it can mimic a psychiatric disorder.
Psychiatric symptoms may include anxiety, hysteria, depression, psychosis, delirium, agitation, and altered consciousness. Some symptoms may even be similar to schizophrenia. Their ability to differentiate and diagnose the presence of photosensitive porphyrins in urine can be helpful.


Does Porphyria Cause Pain?

An acute form of porphyria can cause pain such as
- Abdominal pain.
- Muscle pain.
- Pain in legs, back, or chest.


What are the foods to avoid porphyria triggers?

Porphyria is a genetic disorder; dietary modifications have little or no difference in its incidence; however, certain foods have been found to aggravate the symptoms.
- Alcohol should be entirely avoided or restricted to not more than two glasses per day for men and not more than one drink per day for women.
- Food that is high in carbohydrates.
- Crash diets should be strictly avoided. If the patient is obese, weight should be brought down carefully.


Describe the Enzymes Involved in Heme Synthesis:

Heme is a substance necessary for myoglobin and hemoglobin production. Its synthesis requires the following enzymes
- ALA synthase.
- ALA dehydratase.
- Uroporphyrinogen I synthase.
- Uroporphyrinogen II synthase.
- Uroporphyrinogen III synthase.                                 
- Coproporphyrinogen oxidase.


What Is the Primary Cause of Porphyria?

Porphyria is primarily a genetic disorder. Heme is a component of hemoglobin that is produced with the help of a number of enzymes. Lack of any of these enzymes leads to the incomplete production of heme, and thereby porphyrin and porphyrin precursors get accumulated. Depending on the site of accumulation, porphyria is acute (when it accumulates in the nervous system) or cutaneous (when it accumulates in the skin (which is triggered by sunlight)


Can Stress Lead to Porphyria?

Stress, as a sole reason, cannot lead to porphyria. However, in a person who is genetically predisposed to have the condition, emotional stress or physical stress due to bodily infection or illness can trigger the condition.


What Body Parts Are Affected by Porphyria?

The liver, skin, and nervous system are the organs mainly affected by porphyria.
- Acute porphyria increases the incidence of liver cancer and the chances of developing cirrhosis.
- It can also lead to gallstone formation.
- Acute porphyria can also lead to kidney problems and high blood pressure.


Can Inbreeding Lead to Porphyria?

Porphyria is a genetic disorder; that is, the inheritance of the faulty mutation can lead to the disease. Inbreeding can increase the chance for such genetic mutations to be passed on to future generations as the gene pool remains shallow.

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Last reviewed at:
27 Jun 2023  -  4 min read




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