Psychiatric Presentations/Manifestations of Medical Illnesses
The porphyrias are a heterogeneous group of inherited deficiencies in the heme biosynthetic pathway. Acute intermittent porphyria is both the most prevalent and most severe form of this illness. Psychiatric symptoms are part of the classic presentation of this disorder, and psychiatric patients have a higher rate of porphyria than the general population. Despite this, clinicians often fail to consider this diagnosis in the differential for recalcitrant psychosis or depression. Many patients are asymptomatic until exposed to certain medications, liver damage, or hormonal changes. Diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion and a thorough history, physical examination, and laboratory evaluation. The author reviews historical aspects, diagnostic features, and optimal treatment of acute intermittent porphyria, considers possible etiologies of its psychiatric symptoms, and provides two case histories as examples.