Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Angioedema

(Angioneurotic Edema; Hereditary Angioedema)

Definition

Angioedema is swelling under the surface of the skin with or without redness. It is very common. Angioedema can occur around the eyelids and lips, or on the face, hands, feet, or genitalia. It can cause swelling of the airways, so it is important to seek medical care if you think you have angioedema.

Causes ^

Angioedema is often associated with hives. It can be caused by:

  • Foods such as fruits, shellfish, and nuts
  • Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) inhibitors, penicillin, aspirin, and morphine
  • Infection
  • Inhaled substances such as pollens, mold spores, and animal dander
  • Certain diseases such as hyperthyroidism, cancer, and rheumatic fever
  • Environment such as cold, heat, and water
  • Skin contact with plants, animals, or medications
  • Skin disease
  • Family history

Hives
Splotchy body rash -adult

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Risk Factors ^

This condition is more common in women and people who are 30-60 years of age.

Factors that may increase your chances of developing angioedema include:

Symptoms ^

Symptoms may include:

  • Large swelling with unclear borders around the eyelids and lips
  • Lesions on the face, trunk, genitals, and extremities
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rash that is not itchy

Diagnosis ^

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested to look for other potential causes. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin tests
  • Throat culture
  • Stool sample

Images may be taken of your abdomen. This can be done with an abdominal ultrasound.

Treatment ^

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Minor episodes of angioedema may not need treatment. However, it is important to make sure the swelling does not spread to the airway, which can be life-threatening. Treatment options include the following:

  • Medications—antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroids, and pain medications may help ease symptoms of angioedema.
  • Tracheostomy—If your airway is affected, a tube may be placed through your neck and into your windpipe. It will help to keep your airway open.

Tracheostomy Tube
Tracheostomy Tube

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Prevention ^

To help reduce your chances of developing this condition, avoid substances or triggers that have caused hives or angioedema in the past.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
http://www.aaaai.org

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
http://www.aafa.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
https://dermatology.ca

Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
http://csaci.ca

REFERENCES:

Acute urticaria. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T916900/Acute-urticaria. Updated July 27, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Beltrani VS. Angioedema: some "new" thoughts regarding idiopathic angioedema. In: Greaves MW, Kaplan AP, eds. Marcel Dekker. New York, NY; 2004: 421.

Angioedema. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T566511/Angioedema. Updated May 3, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Last reviewed January 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD  Last Updated: 2/7/2018