Angioedema- Overview, Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is a type of swelling, which can become extreme, in the deep part of the inner layer of the skin and below. In some cases, this swelling occurs along with the appearance of hives. For this reason, angioedema is sometimes called “giant hives.”

Hives are itchy and raised, red welts which develop on the skin surface, involving only the two layers of skin. Urticarial is a separate term to hives.

Both angioedema and hives may be caused by an allergic reaction or food intolerance, a side effect or allergy to a drug, or an allergy in the surrounding environment, like as pollen, pet dander, and insect bite venom.

In very rare cases, the swelling can be a symptom of a more serious health condition, such as non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma. Some regions of the body are more susceptible to angioedema than others, like as the eyelids, lips and tongue.

When angioedema is passed from a parent to a child through genetic transmission, the condition is known as hereditary angioedema. Hereditary angioedema has different causes than the acquired angioedema, but in any case, the symptoms one has treatment would be identical.

Angioedema can be part of a severe medical condition. When treated properly due to an acute allergic reaction, chances of recovery are very favourable. When one has only moderate angioedema, without any therapy it may resolve on its own.



The welts associated with hives can be:

  • Reddish
  • Itchy ranging from mild to intense
  • Round, oval or worm-shaped
  • As tiny as a pea or as big as a plate of dinner

Most hives appear fastly and leave within 24 hours. Chronic hives can last through months or years.


Angioedema is a hives-like reaction that affects the skin’s deeper layers. It can appear with hives or alone. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Welts that form in minutes to hours
  • Swelling and redness, particularly around the eyes, cheeks and lips
  • Pain or warmth in the affected areas

When to call your doctor

Mild cases of hives or angioedema may typically be treated at home. See your doctor if your symptoms continue for more than a few days.

If you’re thought you have hives or angioedema were caused by a known allergy to food or medication, your symptoms can be an early sign of an anaphylactic reaction. When you feel your tongue, lips, mouth or throat is swollen or you are having trouble breathing, seek emergency treatment.


The cause of angioedema is determined on its form, as follows:

  • Insect bites, latex contact and some medicines, like as penicillin or aspirin, may cause allergic angioedema.
  • Some medicines, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, may lead to angioedema induced by the medication.
  • It may inherit a gene that causes a tendency to have low levels of a particular protein in the blood. This can, in turn, result in angioedema.

Many episode causes include pregnancy, birth control pills, illness or trauma. Patients are usually treated effectively with medication. Episodes can be severe and need to be hospitalized.

In certain people with angioedema, the cause cannot be known.

Risk factors

Hives and angioedema are common. You may find yourself at increased risk of hives and angioedema:

  • Have had hives or angioedema before
  • Have had other allergic reactions
  • Have hives, angioedema or inherited angioedema family history


The most dangerous complication of angioedema is throat swelling and airways swelling.

The condition is usually mild but it can cause asphyxiation if it progresses rapidly or if it affects the throat. This will lead to the following signs:

  • Sudden or Rapidly Escalating Breathing Problems
  • Fainting or Dizziness
  • Collapsing


Take the following steps to lower the risk of developing hives or angioedema:

Avoid known triggers: Try avoiding that substance if you know what caused your hives.

Bathe and change your clothes: If your hives have triggered by pollen or animal contact in the past, take a bath or shower and change your clothes if you are exposed to pollen or animals.

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