A Disease That Turns You Into A Vampire
What could Vincent Van Gogh and King George III of England have in common? Both men had crazy mood swings that some theorize resulted from porphyria, a rare disease that causes the body to fail to produce heme. Heme is a protein that helps cells carry oxygen, and without it, substances called porphyrins build up in the liver, turning urine and feces purple. Symptoms include abdominal pain, chest pain, vomiting, confusion, and high heart rate, which can last weeks. Porphyria can even lead to seizures! Most of the time, porphyria passes from a parent, but one type comes from hep C, alcohol, and HIV/AIDS. Doctors make a diagnosis with blood, urine, and stool testing. However, they can also do genetic testing to determine the specific mutation. We’re not sure of the precise prevalence of porphyria, but it is estimated to affect between 1 and 100 per 50,000 people. Porphyria treatment varies but sometimes involves a liver transplant. A diet rich in carbs or medication can help. Some people with porphyria have so much pain that they have to use opiates while having so much nausea that they have to medicate with phenothiazine.