Angioedema is a condition characterized by swelling in the deeper layers of the skin, often involving the face, lips, tongue, throat, and/or other areas of the body. It is caused by a similar mechanism as hives (urticaria), which is the swelling of the superficial layers of the skin. However, in angioedema, the swelling occurs in the deeper tissues.
Here are some key points about angioedema:
- Symptoms: Angioedema presents as sudden, localized swelling that can be painful or cause a tingling or burning sensation. The swelling can appear on the face, lips, tongue, throat, hands, feet, or genitals. In some cases, it may involve the internal organs, such as the gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system, leading to abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty breathing.
- Causes: Angioedema can have various causes, including allergic and non-allergic factors. Allergic angioedema can be triggered by allergens such as certain foods, medications (like antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), insect stings, or latex. Non-allergic causes can include certain medications (like angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors), genetic or hereditary factors (hereditary angioedema), or unknown reasons (idiopathic angioedema).
- Mechanism: The swelling in angioedema occurs due to the increased permeability of blood vessels in the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissues. This increased permeability allows fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to swelling.
- Duration: Angioedema episodes can last for variable durations, ranging from a few hours to several days. The duration may depend on the cause, the individual’s response to treatment, and other factors.
- Treatment: The treatment of angioedema depends on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. In cases of allergic angioedema, removing or avoiding the trigger is important. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed to help reduce swelling and relieve symptoms. In some cases, if angioedema is severe or recurring, medications such as antihistamines, leukotriene receptor antagonists, or medications targeting specific pathways may be used. In hereditary angioedema, specific medications to prevent and manage attacks are available.
If you experience angioedema, it is important to seek medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Severe angioedema involving the throat or respiratory system can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.