Angioedema is a skin problem which causes the skin to swell in a similar fashion as hives. The difference between hives and angioedema is that the former occurs on the surface of the skin while the latter can occur without the hives, depending on its underlying cause. Angioedema usually occurs within the tissues beneath the eyes and lips. Its rate of progression is usually different with each patient. The condition normally advances within a matter of minutes or may take a few hours. Angioedema is normally diagnosed as mild and will be difficult to recognize unless it has started spreading to the tongue and throat.
Angioedema can have several different causes. If the angioedema is seen to be spreading quickly, then immediate medical attention is necessary as it may obstruct the air passages and cause the patient to suffocate. This is especially true if angioedema is caused by an allergic reaction. In other cases, angioedema must be diagnosed properly in order to be given proper treatment.
Angioedema is known to cause varying degrees of discomfort. The most common symptom is red welts which occur around the eyes and lips. It is accompanied by itchiness, and a painful burning sensation through the surface of the skin may be present. Swelling may also appear within the throat, the tongue and sometimes, the hands and feet.
The most common cause of angioedema is due to allergic reactions from food, medication and drinks. Some cases report that insect bites, pollen and even simple exposure to heat or cold and even sunlight can trigger angioedema. Whenever there is an allergic reaction, histamines are produced by the body when a foreign object is detected by the immune system. It is this histamine which results in the swelling such as hives and the other symptoms.
Angioedema also has some non-allergic reactions. Patients who are diagnosed with conditions which weaken their immune systems such as lupus, leukemia and lymphoma are at risk. A hereditary form of angioedema has different causes, treatments and complications. Hereditary angioedema can occur within the digestive tract as well as in other internal organs. With hereditary angioedema, severe pain normally accompanies the swelling and the swelling may even occur in the limbs and genitals of the patient. Dependent completely on what triggers it, hereditary angioedema can attack from once a week to once a year. It is very difficult to predict the severity and location of an attack.
To treat angioedema, one must know what caused it. If it is because of allergic reaction and the symptoms are mild, then treatment is not really necessary. It is the more severe forms of angioedema which would require medical intervention. To relieve the patient from the discomfort of the swelling, medicines such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines can bring some relief.
As we all know, prevention is the best way to go about angioedema. Being able to rid yourself of everything than can cause an angioedema attack will be the best way to avoid it. This is true for both the hereditary and common forms of angioedema.