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

Angioedema is often associated with urticaria (hives). It can be caused by:
  • Foods such as fruits, shellfish, and nuts
  • Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ACE inhibitors, 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. 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.

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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—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

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

RESOURCES

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
http://www.acaai.org

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association
http://www.dermatology.ca

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

References

Angioedema. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2014. Accessed August 19, 2014.

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

Lin RY, Cannon AG, Teitel AD. Pattern of hospitalizations for angioedema in New York between 1990 and 2003. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005;95:159

Urticaria. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2014. Accessed August 19, 2014.

Revision Information

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