What is angioedema?

Angioedema is a localized tissue swelling similar to hives in which areas of raised, itchy skin appear. However, in contrast to hives, which appear on the surface of the skin, angioedema affects deeper layers of the skin and other organs (mouth, airways, intestinal tract, etc.). Angioedema may occur anywhere, but most commonly affects the skin around the eyes and around and in the mouth.

Angioedema is generally a result of an allergic reaction, such as those due to food or medication allergies. Rarely, it can be hereditary. Angioedema may develop after an infection or in association with a chronic disease such as lupus or certain cancers. Since it is typically due to an allergic reaction, anyone can experience angioedema. The severity of angioedema is variable. Mild cases may not require medical treatment, but severe cases can lead to life-threatening consequences such as difficulty breathing.

Treatments for angioedema can include steroids, antihistamines, epinephrine and other medications. In life-threatening cases, respiratory support, such as a breathing machine, may be necessary. In milder cases that do not compromise breathing, angioedema is not usually a serious condition and resolves on its own within a few days.

While generally not a serious condition, angioedema can sometimes be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if angioedema becomes severe and begins to cause swelling in the area of your throat or mouth or you experience dizziness or fainting, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, or if you experience chest pain or pressure.

If you experience persistent angioedema (more than several days), are in pain, or your angioedema causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What are the symptoms of angioedema?

Symptoms of angioedema generally include skin symptoms that resolve within several days. However, severe angioedema can be persistent and lead to more severe symptoms.

Common skin symptoms associated with angioedema

You will likely experience angioedema symptoms daily during the course of your condition. At times any of these symptoms can be severe:

    Read more about angioedemasymptoms


What causes angioedema?

Angioedema is most frequently caused by an allergic reaction. As part of that reaction, your body will release histamine, a chemical that causes swelling. Alternatively, your angioedema may be hereditary and caused by gene mutations. In some cases, the cause of angioedema may not be found.

Common causes of angioedema

Nonhereditary angioedema may be caused by a variety o... Read more about angioedemacauses


How is angioedema treated?

Angioedema is typically not a serious condition and will usually resolve on its own without treatment. If severe enough to cause breathing difficulties, hospitalization and respiratory support are necessary.

Treatment options for angioedema

Treatment options for angioedema include:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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