What is Angioedema ?
Angioedema is a more serious type of skin reaction that affects the skin layer and also the tissues beneath it. The upper layer of the skin gets inflamed and develops blisters or lesions abruptly. Most of the time, angioedema is short lived. Often it occurs on the eyes and lips area but any part of the body can get affected. In serious cases angioedema can affect vital organs like intestine and lungs.
Difference between Angioedema and Urticaria :
Urticaria is more common than angioedema and it affects only the superficial skin layers. Angioedema affects the epidermis and dermis layer or submucosal surface whereas urticaria develops only on the epidermis layer. Angioedema can affect skin layers as well as lips and eyelids, whereas urticaria affects only the skin. Both the skin problems would last only for few hours and hence short lived. Angioedema causes red colored patches on the surface of the skin and even below the skin layer, whereas urticaria affects only the skin layer. Both are similar in causing itchy skin and sometimes pain with tenderness.
Causes and Types :
There are many factors that cause angioedema. Angioedema can be broadly categorized into 4 types namely Acute allergic type, non allergic angioedema, idiopathic (unknown cause) angioedema and hereditary angioedema. The cause differs with that of its type.
- Acute allergic type occurs almost abruptly with sudden formation of red patches on the skin, once the person is exposed to allergen. The primary causes of this type of angioedema are food allergy like nuts, milk or eggs, drug allergy, insect sting, and wearing rubber products.
- Non allergic angioedema is caused by intake of certain drugs like ACE inhibitors that are prescribed for treating high blood pressure.
- Idiopathic angioedema the cause is unknown. This type is chronic and recurring in nature. The person will get repeated symptoms frequently. It can develop due to autoimmune disorders.
- Hereditary angioedema occurs due to inherited deficient genes and defective gene mutation.
The skin layer gets affected and there would be marked swelling of areas of skin around the lips and mouth and around the eyes. In some people the skin surrounding the hands, feet and even genitals can also develop inflammation. It may or may not cause itchiness and the area can be painful and tender. In severe cases the swelling of throat area can cause difficulty in breathing. In case angioedema affects the intestine it can cause swelling inside leading to abdominal cramps.
The doctor would complete physical exam of the affected person and collects his/her medical history. He would ask few questions regarding exposure of possible allergens. He would also collect health information about your family and possibility of any skin allergy before. No lab test is required to diagnose angioedema. If the doctor suspect hereditary factor is involved, he may ask for blood testing.
Images, Pics, Photos and Pictures of Angioedema :
In most of the cases, angioedema may not require any special treatment since the disease is self resolving. If you could identify and stop the allergens you may not get the symptoms again. If there is itching and swelling on the affected surface of the skin, you can oral or topical antihistamines over the counter. Benadryl or similar drugs are effective in controlling itching.
Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid drugs either orally or inject it intravenously depending on the severity of the case. He may also give a shot of epinephrine. In more severe cases when the breathing path is obstructed due to swelling, the patient may be hospitalized and given artificial breathing. The main purpose of treatment is to reduce swelling and itching. Most of the cases respond well for drugs like antihistamines or corticosteroids.