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Prevalence of photosensitivity in chronic hepatitis C virus patients and its relation to serum and urinary porphyrins



Background & Aims

HCV is a major cause of chronic liver disease in Egypt. The aim was to study the prevalence of photosensitivity among asymptomatic HCV-infected patients and its possible relation to porphyrins levels and whether it can be considered an alarm for early diagnosis of the disease, which is the most important goal in the management.


This study included 100 accidentally discovered HCV positive cases and 100 HCV negative healthy controls. All patients and controls were subjected to: Detailed history and clinical examination, dermatological examination including evaluation of reaction to solar exposure, measurement of serum AST, ALT, albumin, bilirubin, serum and urinary porphyrins levels.


The prevalence of photosensitivity among HCV-positive cases (33%) was significantly higher compared to 10% in the control group. Serum porphyrins were positive in 46 cases (46%), twenty-three cases (23%) had positive urinary porphyrins, while only four controls (4%) showed positive serum porphyrins and one (1%) showed positive urinary porphyrins, the difference was statistically significant. Cases with photosensitivity showed significantly higher prevalence of serum and urinary porphyrins existence as well as serum porphyrins levels. Levels of viraemia showed statistically significant relation to levels of porphyrins.


Asymptomatic chronic HCV infection cases showed significantly high prevalence of photosensitivity, which is related to the associated disturbance of porphyrins metabolism. Photosensitivity can thus be considered an early marker of HCV infection. Patients discovered to have recently acquired photosensitivity should be screened for HCV infection especially in endemic areas like Egypt.