Symptoms of Angioedema

The hallmark symptom of angioedema is swelling of the skin and/or mucus membranes. This swelling can have several causes, ranging from allergic reactions and exposure to certain medications to genetics.


Swelling in angioedema usually is localized to the lips, face, tongue, neck, or genitals. Most commonly, the swelling remains in the skin only, and does not affect the underlying muscles or organs. Angioedema swellings can arise suddenly or gradually over a few hours, and remain for several days or weeks.

Because the fluids that cause swelling gather in the deeper layers of the skin, angioedema generally manifests as large, engorged areas of skin that may be smooth or raised. The exact presentation of angioedema swelling varies from person to person, or even from case to case in the same person.

Swellings can be red, hot to the touch, and have an inflamed appearance, or be no different in color from surrounding skin. They also may be itchy and uncomfortable, or cause no discomfort at all.

When swelling occurs in the neck and throat, it may restrict breathing to a life-threatening degree. These cases are rare, and usually respond well to allergy treatments, including an EpiPen (epinephrine injection).

Swelling also may occur in the intestines, although this, too, is rare. If it occurs in the intestinal lining, severe angioedema can cause vomiting and abdominal pain.

Other symptoms

In more severe cases, swelling often occurs alongside other symptoms of allergic reactions, such as hives (urticaria). Hives cause swelling in the upper layers of the skin, resulting in small, raised, and often itchy or uncomfortable bumps. Appearing in a cluster or formation, hives sometimes appear on top of the angioedema lesions.

Rapid and severe swelling also can trigger potentially dangerous fainting, dizziness, and collapse.


Last updated: July 1, 2021


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