Navigate Up

Women's Center - A-Z Index

#
Y

Print This Page

Porphyrins - blood

Porphyrins help form many important substances in the body. One of these is hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the blood.

Porphyrins can be measured in the blood or the urine.

Alternative Names

Protoporphyrin levels; Porphyrins - total; Coproporphyrin levels; PROTO test

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample will be taken from your vein.

The sample is then placed in ice and taken immediately to the laboratory. Three porphyrins can normally be measured in small amounts in human blood. They are:

  • Coproporphyrin
  • Protoporphyrin (PROTO)
  • Uroporphyrin

Protoporphyrin is normally found in the highest amount. More tests are needed to show the levels of specific porphyrins.

How to Prepare for the Test

You should not eat for 12 - 14 hours before this test. You may drink water right before the test. Your test results may be affected if you do not follow these steps.

How the Test will Feel

You may feel a little pain or a sting when the needle is inserted to draw blood. You may feel throbbing at the site afterward.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is used to diagnose porphyrias . This is a group of rare disorders often passed down through family members.

It may also be used along with other tests to diagnose lead poisoning and certain nervous system and skin disorders.

Normal Results

This test specifically measures total porphyrin levels, but reference values (a range of values seen in a group of healthy people) for the individual components are also included:

  • Total porphyrin levels: 16 to 60 mcg/dL
  • Coproporphyrin levels: < 2 mcg/dL
  • Protoporphyrin levels: 16 to 60 mcg/dL
  • Uroporphyrin levels: < 2 mcg/dL

Note: mcg/dL = micrograms per deciliter

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Increased levels of coproporphyrins may be a sign of:

Increased protoporphyrin levels may be a sign of:

Increased uroporphyrin levels may be a sign of:

  • Congenital erythropoietic porphyria
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size so taking a blood sample may be harder in some people than others.  

Other slight risks of having blood drawn may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

Anderson K. The porphyrias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 217.

Fuller SJ, Wiley JS. Heme biosynthesis and its disorders: porphyrias and sideroblastic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 36.

Updated: 3/3/2013

Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com