Last updated on 6 August 2021
Porphyria can be tough to manage whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with the condition or have struggled with it for years. Though there are people who are able to manage porphyria and not let the disorder come between them and their daily life, there are others who have had their entire world turned upside down because of this skin condition. In fact, porphyria symptoms could make simple activities feel like onerous tasks.
What Is Porphyria?
Porphyria is a collection of disorders that causes skin or nerve-related issues. It may even cause abdominal pain. When diagnosed, the body cells do not change the chemical porphyrins and porphyrin precursors into heme, which is a substance that gives blood its red hue. Eight enzymes manage the various steps in the heme-making process. If one or more enzymes aren’t doing their jobs right, the human body would not make heme. As a result, porphyrins and porphyrin precursors start to accumulate in the body, leading to this illness. Patients invariably inherit the condition from their parents.
Porphyria symptoms could vary with the severity of the condition, and also its type and the individual affected. If gene mutations have caused porphyria, there would be no visible symptoms.
Heme is a component of haemoglobin, which is a red blood cell protein transferring oxygen from the lungs to the whole body. As aforementioned, heme gives blood its characteristic red color. It contains iron as well. Heme is produced in the liver and bone marrow and entails several distinct enzymes. When these enzymes aren’t available in necessary amounts in the body, it leads to a superfluous build-up of certain chemical compounds that are linked with heme production. The scarcity of enzyme would ascertain the specific porphyria type.
The type of porphyria determines the complications you may experience. If treatment isn’t prompt enough, acute porphyrias could be life-threatening. When under a porphyria attack, you may experience breathing issues, high blood pressure, dehydration and seizures. Recurrent acute attacks could cause long-term physical issues, such as chronic liver damage and chronic kidney failure. Cutaneous porphyrias could damage your skin permanently. Moreover, skin blisters could get infected. Anxiety and depression are common mental effects of porphyria.
Doctors at times may find it complicated to diagnose porphyria since the symptoms can be similar to a few other diseases’ symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have porphyria, he could order urine, stool, and blood tests for proper diagnosis. The ideal time to get these tests done is when the symptoms are active. At times, you’ll be put through multiple exams so that your doctor could figure out the porphyria type you are suffering from. Your doctor could also ask you to get genetic testing done. Because porphyria typically runs in the blood, other members of your family could be asked to get this test done as well.
CBD And Porphyria
There is no real cure for porphyria. Traditional treatments help manage the disorder’s symptoms. Essentially, conventional treatment intends to supplement and substitute the heme enzyme.
Actual treatment varies with the condition type and the symptoms’ severity. Treatment usually entails detecting the signs and keeping triggers at bay. The treatments could include hemin injections, intravenous glucose, and hospitalisation (in case of acute porphyrias). The therapy for cutaneous porphyrias should primarily focus on reducing triggers, such as sunlight exposure, and minimizing the body’s porphyrins content to help relieve the symptoms. This could entail administering medicines, such as Plaquenil and Aralen, but there are several side effects to using these medicines.
Cannabidiol (CBD) can be quite an effective treatment option for people struggling with vomiting and nausea caused by the condition. Medical cannabis treatment is devoid of the uncomfortable symptoms accompanying certain conventional medications, and they are not addictive like opiates. CBD can also work in conjunction with other medications.
Why CBD Can Be an Effective Treatment for Porphyria?
CBD helps relieve inflammation, convulsion, cough and congestion, anxiety, and nausea. Several studies have also exhibited cannabidiol’s effectiveness in treating schizophrenia1.
The FDA recently approved2 the first medication derived from cannabis plant, Epidiolex (pure CBD in oral form). The medication helps treat seizures linked with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Since cannabidiol helps relieve the symptoms aforementioned, physicians could recommend CBD or cannabis strains with an increased amount of CBD off-label to help individuals suffering from other conditions, such as porphyria.
How to Use CBD to Treat Porphyria?
There are various methods through which you can receive CBD and porphyria therapy. The following are some of the common routes:
If the mere thought of smoking doesn’t go down well with you, you may opt for edibles. These offer you a milder, yet extended effect. These effects could take their time to manifest, but they shall remain longer.
Many patients resort to topicals, such as lotions and balms or CBD creams for porphyria, to manage their pain. There are also transdermal patches that directly release medication into your system via your skin.
CBD oil for porphyria
Having become popular in recent times, CBD oil for porphyria can be administered sublingually as a pill or under your tongue.
- McGuire, P., Robson, P., Cubala, W., Vasile, D., Morrison, P., Barron, R., Taylor, A. and Wright, S. (2018). Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(3), pp.225-231.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. [online]