St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Angioedema

    Angioneurotic edema; Welts

    Angioedema is a swelling that issimilar to hives, but the swelling isunder the skin instead of on the surface.

    Hives are often called welts. They are a surface swelling. It is possible to have angioedema without hives.

    Causes

    Angioedema may be caused by an allergic reaction. During the reaction, histamine and other chemicals are released into the bloodstream. The body releases histamine when the immune system detects a foreign substance called an allergen.

    In most cases, the cause of angioedema is never found.

    The following may cause angioedema:

    • Animal dander (scales of shed skin)
    • Exposure to water, sunlight, cold or heat
    • Foods (such as berries, shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs, and milk)
    • Insect bites
    • Medicines (drug allergy), such as antibiotics (penicillin and sulfa drugs), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and blood pressure medicines (ACE inhibitors)
    • Pollen

    Hives and angioedema may also occur after infections or with other illnesses (including autoimmune disorders such as lupus, and leukemia and lymphoma).

    A form of angioedema runs in families and has different triggers, complications, and treatments. This is called hereditary angioedema, and it is not discussed in this article.

    Symptoms

    The main symptom is sudden swelling below the skin surface. You may also develop welts or swelling on the surface of your skin.

    The swelling usually occurs around the eyes and lips. It may also be found on the hands, feet, and throat. The swelling may form a line or be more spread out.

    The welts are painful and may be itchy. This is known as hives (urticaria). They turn pale and swell if irritated. The deeper swelling of angioedema may also be painful.

    Other symptoms may include:

    • Abdominal cramping
    • Breathing difficulty
    • Swollen eyes and mouth
    • Swollen lining of the eyes (chemosis)

    Exams and Tests

    The health care provider will look at your skin and ask you if you have been exposed to any irritating substances. A physical exam might reveal abnormal sounds (stridor) when you breathe in ifyour throat is affected.

    The health care provider may perform blood tests or allergy testing.

    Treatment

    Mild symptoms may not need treatment. Moderate to severe symptoms may need to be treated. Breathing difficulty is an emergency condition.

    People with angioedema should:

    • Avoid any known allergen or trigger that causes their symptoms
    • Avoid any medicines, herbs, or supplements that are not prescribed by a health care provider

    Cool compresses or soaks can provide pain relief.

    Medications used to treat angioedema include:

    • Antihistamines
    • Anti-inflammatory medicines (corticosteroids)
    • Epinephrine shots (people with a history of severe symptomscan carry these with them)
    • Inhaler medicines that help open up the airways
    • Ranitidine (Zantac)

    If the person has trouble breathing, seek immediate medical help. A severe, life-threatening airway blockage may occur if the throat swells.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Angioedema that does not affect the breathing may be uncomfortable, but is usually harmlessand goes awayin a few days.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if:

    • Angioedema does not respond to treatment
    • It is severe
    • You have never had angioedema before

    Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:

    • Abnormal breathing sounds (stridor)
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Fainting
    • Wheezing

    References

    Dreskin SC. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Goldman L,Schafer AI,eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 260.

    Wasserman SI. Approach to the person with allergic or immunologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2011:chap 257.

    BACK TO TOP

          Tests for Angioedema

            Review Date: 6/17/2012

            Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III., MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
            adam.com

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            History
            Mission
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs
            Assessment

            Newsroom
            Services
            Brain & Spine
            Cancer
            Heart
            Maternity
            Orthopedics
            Pulmonary
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            mystlukes
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Health Risk Assessments
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Volunteer
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            Careers
            Careers
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile