Angioedema is a highly treatable group of immune system disorders that involve swellings on the skin, tongue, throat, or intestines.

The swelling events can be chronic — recurring over the long term — like in the case of idiopathic angioedemahereditary angioedema, and acquired angioedema. Or, they may be acute — a sudden, sporadic event in response to a specific trigger — like in non-allergic angioedema (NAE) and allergic angioedema.

Swellings in the intestines can cause intense pain and sickness, while swellings in the throat may block the airway and cause difficulty breathing. These can quickly become life-threatening emergencies and require immediate first-aid. However, swellings in any other part of the body are not harmful. In all cases, an episode of swelling will go away on its own after two-three days.

Living with all forms of the condition can be very simple with treatment. It all comes down to avoiding triggers, taking medicine to prevent episodes, creating medical plans, and practicing basic self-care.

Avoiding triggers

Non-allergic angioedema and allergic angioedema are reactions to substances.

Non-allergic angioedema is a drug reaction to renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system (RAE) blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These are usually prescribed to lower blood pressure and promote cardiovascular health.

Allergic angioedema is a reaction to common triggers, such as foods (nuts, shellfish, milk, and eggs), and insect stings or bites. Vaccines that contain any of these substances may also cause allergic angioedema.

Medicines such as penicillin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and sulfa drugs are also known triggers of allergic angioedema. Other medical triggers include radiocontrast media, such as iodine and barium that are used in X-ray-based imaging, and latex, a component of many gloves, catheters, balloons, and condoms.

Avoiding these triggers can prevent swelling episodes. That means it is very important to know the cause of angioedema so that those triggers can be avoided.

Avoiding triggers is also useful for chronic forms of the condition, though they are more difficult to avoid. Stress, pain, injury, infection, and medical procedures can cause episodes of swelling to occur, so individuals who experience chronic angioedema should be vigilant during these times.

Taking medicines to prevent episodes

Visiting a medical professional, getting assessed, and if appropriate, being put on a course of preventative medications can make living with angioedema a lot easier.

Allergic angioedema and idiopathic angioedema can be treated with allergy medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and epinephrine (EpiPen).

Hereditary angioedema and allergic angioedema can be prevented or even stopped entirely by C1-Inhibitor boosting drugs such as Haegarda, Cinryze, and Kalbitor. In some cases, medical cannabis, a known anti-inflammatory might also be used.

Allergic angioedema may also involve other medications, prescribed to treat the immune disorders that cause it, such as the lymphoma treatment Rituxan.

Taking any medications as prescribed by a doctor for angioedema, throughout their whole course of treatment, can prevent painful and life-threatening situations.

Creating a medical plan

The more one prepares and plans for what to do during a possible angioedema attack, the easier it will be to get medical care.

Medications should always be kept within reach and in an appropriate amount, especially when traveling. In addition, an EpiPen that is nearby and easily accessible for immediate, self-treatment of a life-threatening swelling attack is a must.

Firazyr can be used in much the same way as an EpiPen but is for non-allergic angioedema, idiopathic angioedema, allergic angioedema, and hereditary angioedema, which do not always respond to allergy medicines.

A plan for contacting medical services in case of a severe, life-threatening attack must be put in place. Patients are advised to look up hospitals, make arrangements with friends and family, and in general make sure that they and the people around them know what to do in case of an angioedema attack.

Practicing basic self-care

Angioedema itself, when it does not occur in the throat or intestine, is harmless and goes away on its own. Keeping in good physical health can help keep away potential triggers. In the case of allergic angioedema,  taking care of the immune disorders that cause it helps to prevent episodes of swelling.

Taking care of one’s mental health is also vital. Experiencing swelling episodes can be terrifying and traumatic, and the size and location of even harmless angioedema can be embarrassing, upsetting, and unpredictable. Anxiety and depression can result.

It is important to remember, however, that angioedema is a treatable condition. The prognosis is very good and, with the right medical care, a person can be symptom-free — with no attacks — for years.

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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