There are several strategies you can use to manage the swelling episodes that occur with angioedema, a condition that involves fluid building up in the tissues underneath the skin and causing swelling, which is known medically as edema.
While there are several causes for angioedema, it is possible to manage the swelling it causes by taking medications, avoiding triggers, and making dietary changes. Trying natural remedies for swelling also can be an option.
Swelling can develop quickly, sometimes within minutes or hours, and that’s especially true in cases of acute allergic angioedema.
Angioedema often affects areas of the body that have loose connective tissue. It can lead to face swelling, particularly around your eyes and lips, as well as on your hands, feet, tongue, and throat. It also can occur in your gut and on your genitals.
The swelling may be smooth or raised in appearance, and the affected skin may be red, warm to the touch, or a normal color. Angioedema swellings may be accompanied by symptoms such as itchiness, hives, which appear as red welts, or pain. However, in some instances, you may not have any discomfort.
When angioedema throat swelling or angioedema tongue swelling occurs, it can obstruct your airways. This also can be problem if angioedema swelling affects your neck. Breathing problems can quickly become life-threatening emergencies and require immediate medical treatment.
Angioedema also can affect the mucous membranes in and around the intestines, causing swelling and pain in your gastrointestinal tract.
Tips to reduce swelling
While treatments for angioedema vary based on the underlying cause, certain medications and natural remedies may help with angioedema swelling.
Pharmaceutical treatments for certain types of angioedema can include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and other medication such as epinephrine.
Angioedema that is triggered by an allergic reaction may lead to anaphylaxis, which is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction that can cause rapid swelling and difficulty breathing. Carry an epinephrine auto-injector, known as EpiPen, as part of your emergency plan in case of an allergic reaction that leads to angioedema throat swelling or angioedema tongue swelling.
In cases where angioedema affects your throat, making it difficult to breathe, seek emergency treatment.
Here are some ways that can help to reduce swelling and relieve pain:
Put a cold compress on the affected area to reduce inflammation.
Elevate your affected limb by sitting or lying down and resting it on a pillow.
Change positions if you have been sitting or standing for too long.
Do leg, ankle, and foot exercises to get your blood flowing.
Wear a compression garment on the affected leg or arm.
If you suspect your angioedema is triggered by exposure to specific substances, an allergist can help you identify those triggers so you can try to avoid them.
Common triggers include foods, medications, insect stings, environmental factors like pollen, and hormonal fluctuations. Some common food triggers are nuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy, and fruits such as citrus and pineapple.
An allergist may do allergy or intolerance tests to identify the foods to which you may be reacting. Keeping a journal of your swelling episodes can be helpful, and can be used when talking with your healthcare team about triggers.
A registered dietitian can work with you to create a well-balanced diet plan. For angioedema prevention, you should try to find alternatives to any food triggers.
Dietary plans might include an elimination diet, a low-histamine diet, or an anti-inflammatory diet:
In an elimination diet, you stop eating all suspected allergens and then reintroduce them into your diet one at a time while you are monitored for allergic reactions, including angioedema swelling.
A low-histamine diet means avoiding high-histamine foods such as aged cheeses, fermented foods, and certain processed foods. Histamine is a compound released during allergic reactions that can contribute to angioedema swelling.
Sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet means eating foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
Because insect bites can be a trigger, it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants, and higher socks, if you’re planning to be outdoors, or near any marshy areas, for any length of time.
Managing chronic forms of angioedema also can involve learning how to deal with stress, pain, injury, and infection. It’s also good to speak with your healthcare team before any planned medical procedures, such as surgery.
Makeup, clothing, and skin products
Certain makeup, skin products, and clothing materials may cause skin reactions or irritation in sensitive individuals, potentially leading to angioedema swelling.
Some ingredients in makeup and skin products, such as preservatives, fragrances, and dyes, may cause localized swelling, redness, and itchiness. Synthetic fabrics, wool, and fabric dyes also may cause a reaction. Latex rubber found in gloves and elastic bands is another common cause of allergic reactions. If you’re using gloves, try to find ones that are latex-free.
Choose clothing made from breathable and hypoallergenic fabrics to minimize the risk of skin irritation. For example, opt for softer wool varieties, such as merino wool, or wear a cotton layer underneath a woolen garment to reduce contact with your skin.
To avoid reactions to makeup and skin products, choose hypoallergenic products that are fragrance-free and labeled for sensitive skin.
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.