Angioedema, which can occur with hives or by itself, is the swelling of the deeper layers of the skin that is caused by a build-up of fluid. Although angioedema can occur in any part of the body, it primarily occurs around the cheeks, lips, and eyes. Angioedema usually appears suddenly, clears up within a day, and does not leave any lasting marks or scars.
Symptoms of Angioedema
The symptoms of angioedema can vary from person to person, but the following are the most commonly noted:
- Welts (that may be raised, firm, and/or itchy) that appear in minutes to hours
- Swelling and redness on the body, typically around the eyes, cheeks, or lips
- Pain and/or warmth in affected areas
Mild cases of angioedema can be treated at home, but more moderate-severe cases may require medical attention, especially if the angioedema causes throat swelling that obstructs an individual’s breathing.
Causes of Angioedema
Angioedema can have a variety of causes, including:
- Food allergies. Foods such as shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, and wheat are common offenders.
- Medication allergies or medical treatments. Medications such as penicillin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and certain blood pressure medications are common triggers. Medical treatments such as blood transfusions may cause angioedema.
- Airborne allergens, such as pollen or other allergens that are in the air, can trigger an allergic reaction including angioedema.
- Environmental factors, such as sunlight, vibration or pressure on the skin, hot showers or baths, stress, insect bites, or exercise.
- Underlying conditions, such as infections from bacteria or viruses.
Sometimes, no specific cause can be identified. In this case, it is known as idiopathic angioedema.
Prevention and Treatment
Before your allergist can recommend a prevention or treatment plan, they may recommend undergoing testing to identify specific allergens that may be the cause of your angioedema. Skin testing, food challenges, or blood testing are commonly recommended in this case.
After a thorough discussion of your symptoms and after determining the causes of your angioedema, your specialist will discuss avoidance and treatment measures to prevent major flare-ups. This may include being placed on a medication plan, undergoing immunotherapy, and/or starting a biologic therapy if your angioedema flares include hives.
Immunotherapy is an effective form of treatment for angioedema, especially if it is airborne allergy-induced, as it helps the immune system build a tolerance to certain allergens.
A biologic treatment can also be effective for patients who experience idiopathic or airborne allergy-induced angioedema and hives, as biologic treatments reduce internal inflammation by targeting a specific aspect of the immune system.
Your allergist will likely prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector to carry at all times if you have a history of moderate to severe angioedema. This is a safety medication that can be used if you are experiencing a severe episode of angioedema and/or anaphylaxis. After using epinephrine, it is important to seek emergency medical treatment in case your symptoms quickly reoccur.
Next stepsIf you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call 512-382-1933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment
Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21