Angioedema
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Angioedema

(Angioneurotic Edema)

En Español (Spanish Version)

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 (eg, strawberries, pineapple, shellfish, nuts, alcohol)
  • Food additives (eg, benzoates, dyes)
  • Medications (eg, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ACE inhibitors, ARB inhibitors, penicillin, aspirin, morphine)
  • Infection
  • Inhaled substances (eg, pollens, mold spores, animal dander)
  • Certain diseases (eg, hyperthyroidism , cancer , rheumatic fever )
  • Environment (eg, cold, heat, water)
  • Skin contact with plants, animals, or medications
  • Skin disease
  • Genetic predisposition

Hives

Splotchy body rash -adult

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following risk factors increase your chance of developing angioedema. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

Symptoms

If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to angioedema. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

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

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin tests
  • Throat culture
  • Stool sample
  • Abdominal ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the abdomen

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Minor episodes of angioedema may need no treatment, but 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 (eg, antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroids, and pain medications) may help ease symptoms of angioedema.
  • Tracheostomy—If your airway is affected, your doctor may place a tube in your throat to keep your airway open.

Tracheostomy Tube

Tracheostomy Tube

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of developing this condition, avoid substances or triggers that have brought on 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/english

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

References:

Angioedema. Emedicine website. Available at: http://www.emedicine.com/ped/topic101.htm . Accessed December 3, 2006.

Beltrani VS. Angioedema: some "new" thoughts regarding idiopathic angioedema. In: Greaves MW, Kaplan AP, eds. Urticaria and angioedema. 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/angioedema. EBSCO Dynamed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Accessed December 3, 2006.



Last reviewed February 2008 by Jill Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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