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Porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) is the most common type of porphyria.

An increase in porphyrins in the skin result in photosensitivity i.e. the skin is damaged by light.


Individuals with PCT present with increasingly fragile skin on the back of the hands and the forearms. Features include:

* Sores (erosions) following relatively minor injuries

* Fluid filled blisters (vesicles and bullae)

* Tiny cysts (milia) arising as the blisters heal

* Increased sensitivity to the sun

Although these features may also occur on the face and neck as well, it is more common to notice mottled brown patches around the eyes and increased facial hair. Occasionally the skin becomes hardened (sclerodermoid) on the neck, face or chest. There may be small areas of permanent baldness (alopecia) or ulcers.

Characteristically, the urine is darker than usual, with a reddish or tea-coloured hue.

The clinical appearance of variegate porphyria is similar but the biochemical abnormality is different.

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