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Angioedema : Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis and Treatment

Aug 8, 2023

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Symptoms Of Angioedema

Types And Causes Of Angioedema

Angioedema due to allergies

Angioedema brought on by non-allergenic medications

Drug-Induced Angioedema

HAE, or hereditary angioedema

Angioedema idiopathic

Acquired Angioedema

Diagnosis Of Angioedema

Treatment Of Angioedema

Angioedema: Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis and Treatment

Angioedema is a transient, repeated subcutaneous or submucosal swelling. Generally speaking, it affects the following:

  • The upper airways
  • Skin
  • Digestive system

The direct cause of edema is leaking blood vessels in the skin or surrounding tissues, but there are a number of other potential underlying causes as well. Hives might occasionally start out with swelling. For this reason, angioedema is sometimes referred to as "giant hives."

Hives, which occur on the skin's surface and affect the top two layers of skin, are itchy, raised welts. Angioedema or hives may result from:

  • A food sensitivity
  • Allergy
  • Local environmental allergies like pollen, pet dander
  • The venom from insect bites
  • A medication allergy or side effect

In other circumstances, a doctor might not be aware of the underlying issue. Some body areas are more susceptible to angioedema than others, including the tongue, lips, and eyelids.

When a condition is passed down genetically from parent to child, it is referred to as "hereditary angioedema". Although the causes of acquired and inherited angioedema are different, the symptoms and treatment options are the same.

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Symptoms Of Angioedema

Swelling is the most typical sign of angioedema. It frequently affects the area around the eyes, lips, and tongue, but it can also affect the hands, feet, or genitalia.

Urticaria (hives), which are characterized by swelling and welts on the skin's surface, may or may not accompany angioedema. Itching is a side effect of allergic angioedema.

Other angioedema signs and symptoms could be:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulty
  • People with angioedema may feel swelling of the airways that makes breathing difficult as well as a dangerous drop in blood pressure in more severe cases.

Types And Causes Of Angioedema

Several possible causes of angioedema are described below:

Angioedema due to allergies

The most prevalent type of angioedema is allergic angioedema. It could be brought on by reactions to drugs, food, or other allergens.

Several probable reasons include:

  • Latex
  • Peanuts
  • Antibiotics
  • Shellfish
  • Insect bites
  • Insect stings

Angioedema brought on by non-allergenic medications

When someone reacts to medication in a non-allergic way, drug-induced angioedema happens. Due to the absence of hives or itchiness, you can tell it apart from allergic reactions.

Drug-Induced Angioedema

The second most frequent form of angioedema is drug-induced.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, a widely used blood pressure drug, are a frequent cause.

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HAE, or hereditary angioedema

Compared to allergy or drug-induced angioedema, hereditary angioedema (HAE) is less frequent. It happens when an immune system component called the complement pathway's enzyme has a deficit or defect that is inherited.

Angioedema idiopathic

When a clinician cannot identify a cause for the angioedema, it develops into idiopathic angioedema. Angioedema instances that are idiopathic can account for up to 40% of cases. Idiopathic angioedema's origins and characteristics are not well understood by specialists.

Acquired Angioedema

After an infection or sickness like lupus (SLE), acquired angioedema can also appear. In a few rare instances, lymphoma or leukemia may be to blame. Such angioedema can also be brought on by autoimmune conditions.

Diagnosis Of Angioedema

A medical professional will examine you physically and inquire about your symptoms and medical background. If you have any swelling or welts, your doctor will look at them during the examination. To determine if your throat has been impacted, they could also listen to your breathing.

If you have recently been exposed to substances that have caused an allergic reaction, be sure to let your doctor know. They might be able to identify the precise reason for your reaction with the use of this information.

If genetic or acquired angioedema is suspected, your doctor will run blood testing. These could include:

Checking levels of complement elements, such as C2 and C4, using the C1 esterase inhibitor test

These examinations evaluate the quantity or functionality of particular proteins in the blood. An underlying autoimmune disease may be the cause of abnormal results in terms of health. The optimum course of treatment may also be determined with their assistance.

Treatment Of Angioedema

There may be no need for treatment if angioedema symptoms are minor. However, medication may be needed to treat excessive swelling in patients with moderate to severe symptoms. These medicines may consist of:

  • Epinephrine (EpiPen) if a severe allergic reaction is present
  • Antihistamines such as loratadine and cetirizine if the allergy or angioedema has no recognized cause.
  • Glucocorticosteroid medication, such as prednisone or Solu-Medrol, if an allergic response is the cause.

Surgery or intubation may be necessary for hereditary angioedema. A person may also be dealt with as follows:

  • Ecallantide, a C1 inhibitor, and a kallikrein inhibitor
  • Icatibant (an antagonist of the bradykinin receptor)

Avoid if at all possible coming in contact with anything that could make you swell. The following natural therapies for angioedema may be helpful in less severe cases:

  • Putting on loose cotton garments to prevent further skin irritation 
  • Applying cool, wet compresses to calm the area and prevent scratching

Your doctor could suggest switching to a different drug if one is making you experience angioedema. Before beginning any medicine or treatment if you are pregnant, you should speak with your doctor. C1 inhibitors might be used in the long term to treat recurrent angioedema.

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