Angioedema is a swelling of the skin often caused by allergies or sensitivities to food or medicines. The swelling is usually localized to the lips, face, tongue, neck, or genitals, but can also sometimes occur in the throat and, rarely, in the intestines.

Because the fluids that cause the swelling gather in the deeper layers of the skin, angioedema manifests as large, smooth, raised, or engorged areas of skin.

Typical angioedema

Angioedema is usually harmless: the swelling remains in the skin only, and does not affect the underlying muscles or organs. Growing in size over several hours or days, angioedema swellings can remain for several days or weeks.

The exact presentation of the angioedema swellings varies from person to person, and even from case to case in the same person. Swellings can be hot or cool to the touch. They can be red and inflamed, or not different in color from the surrounding skin. They may be itchy and uncomfortable, or not felt at all.

Antihistamines and other medicines can reduce the itchiness and discomfort, but  vary in how effective they are at reducing the swelling. Eventually, the swelling runs its course, and over time the skin returns to normal with no lasting effects.

Severe angioedema

More intense angioedema swelling often occurs alongside other symptoms of allergic reactions, such as hives or urticaria. This form of angioedema happens much faster than normal; in the space of minutes or hours. This rapid swelling can trigger potentially dangerous  fainting, dizziness, and collapse.

Severe swelling can be a problem depending on its location in the body. If it occurs In the intestinal lining, severe angioedema can cause vomiting and abdominal pain. Severe swelling of the neck and throat can restrict breathing and lower blood pressure to a life-threatening degree. These cases are rare, and usually respond well to allergy treatments, including an EpiPen (epinephrine injection).

Hives and angioedema

The symptoms of angioedema sometimes include a rash or hives. Hives involve swelling at a shallower layer in the skin than angioedema, resulting in small, raised, often itchy or uncomfortable bumps. Appearing in a cluster or formation, hives sometimes occur on top of the angioedema-affected skin.

Hives and angioedema can occur at the same time as other allergy symptoms. Both will disappear over time, and can also be treated with antihistamines or creams to reduce discomfort and itching.

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Angioedema News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Anna Schoenbach AuthorBNS Writer
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Anna Schoenbach AuthorBNS Writer