Health Information

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 (eg, fruits, shellfish, nuts)
  • 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
  • Family history
Hives
Splotchy body rash -adult
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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 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

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Minor episodes of angioedema may need no 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 (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
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If you are diagnosed with angioedema, follow your doctor's instructions .

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 August 27, 2012. Accessed November 5, 2012.

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 September 19, 2012. Accessed November 5, 2012.

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