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Angioedema

(Angioneurotic Edema; Hereditary Angioedema)

Definition

Angioedema is a common condition that involves swelling beneath the surface of the skin with or without redness. Angioedema can occur around the eyelids and lips, or on the face, hands, feet, or genitalia. Since this condition can cause swelling of the airways, it is important that you seek medical care if you think you have angioedema.

Causes    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

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

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. 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    TOP

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—Certain medications, such as antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroids, and pain medications may help ease symptoms of angioedema.
  • Tracheostomy—If your airway is affected, a tube may be placed in your throat to keep your airway open.

Tracheostomy Tube

Tracheostomy Tube
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Prevention    TOP

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~T115276/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 September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 8/19/2014

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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