Angioedema

Often related to urticaria (hives) angioedema signs may be itching, burning or tingling and more seriously, deep swelling. Unlike urticaria, angioedema usually requires urgent medical treatment.

Angioedema is a condition in which small blood vessels leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. Angioedema can cause difficulty breathing. In this case, urgent medical care is required. Swelling from angioedema may take several days to subside.

Allergic causes for isolated angioedema are rare but should be suspected with short-lived episodes of swelling that occur under similar circumstances, such as after taking certain foods or medicines. Allergy to foods or drugs usually causes urticaria (hives) or itching as well as angioedema at the same time.

The most common areas of the body involved are the face, lips, tongue, throat and genital areas, but anywhere in the body can swell. Swelling in one area usually lasts between 1 and 3 days. Occasionally, swelling of internal organs like the oesophagus or stomach can trigger chest or stomach pains as well.

Angioedema may be itchy, tingling, or burning but often there are no symptoms other than the discomfort of the swelling. Sometimes the swelling can be painful, particularly when it occurs over joints. These swellings can be very big and may last for days.

Around 1 in 10 people will develop urticaria (hives) at some time in their life and around 1 in 3 of these will have angioedema as well. Having angioedema on its own (without urticaria) is uncommon.

 

Causes

Allergic causes for isolated angioedema are rare but should be suspected with short-lived episodes of swelling that occur under similar circumstances, such as after taking certain foods or medicines. Allergy to foods or drugs usually causes urticaria (hives) or itching as well as angioedema at the same time.

  • ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor medicines
  • hereditary angioedema (HAE)
  • acquired C 1 esterase inhibitor deficiency
  • infection (particularly in young infants)
  • food or drug allergy
  • thyroid gland disease and some types of inflammatory arthritis

Treatment

Depending on the cause and severity, angioedema symptoms can be managed and treated in a number of ways:

  • managing/avoiding allergic triggers
  • antihistamines
  • elimination diets

Allergy Medical helps many patients to better manage existing medical conditions by better managing their allergies.

To see how we could help you, just ask us.

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Urticaria

Hives can be small lumps or large welts that spread over the body.