What is Angioedema?

What is Angiodema?

Angioedema affects the deeper layers of the skin. It is a type of swelling that has the potential to become severe. It looks like hives, but much larger. This condition may occur as the result of an allergy, certain medications or an infection. There is also a hereditary form of this condition that occurs as the result of inheriting a genetic mutation. Certain medical conditions, such as leukemia or lupus, might also have angioedema as a symptom.

In addition to redness and swelling, the lesions may appear thick, large and firm. The affected area can also be warm or cause pain. This condition most often affects the area around your cheeks, eyes or lips.

The Diagnosis

A physical examination is performed to look at the swelling. To determine if the throat is affected, the doctor may listen to your breathing. It is important that you let your doctor know about any recent exposure to known allergens.

If your doctor suspects acquired or hereditary angioedema, they may order some blood tests. These may include C1 esterase inhibitor testing and checking C2, C4 and other complement component levels. These tests can provide information about the level of certain blood proteins.

If an unknown allergen is suspected to be causing this condition, your doctor might recommend allergy skin testing. This can help your doctor to determine if you have any allergies that you may not know about.

The Treatment

Moderate to severe symptoms should be treated to alleviate your discomfort. If you are having an acute allergic reaction, epinephrine might be necessary. Antihistamines will be required as well. Corticosteroids may also be recommended in this instance. Solu-Medrol and prednisone are common examples. An acute allergic reaction can be life-threatening, so it is crucial to seek immediate treatment.

If the cause of angioedema is unknown, or when an allergen is the cause, your doctor might recommend an antihistamine to help reduce your symptoms. Examples include diphenhydramine, cetirizine and loratadine and fexofenadine.

If angioedema is acquired or hereditary, there are a few treatment options that might be explored. These may include:

  • Fresh frozen plasma for cases related to ACE inhibitor use
  • Icatibant for hereditary angioedema
  • Purified human C1 esterase inhibitor for hereditary angioedema
  • Ecallantide for hereditary angioedema
  • BCX7353 – a novel oral drug is now FDA approved

In some cases, the cause of angioedema is not identified. This is referred to as idiopathic angioedema. In these instances, an oral antihistamine at higher doses might be prescribed. Omalizumab is once a month subcutaneous injection for idiopathic angioedema and very helpful in patients with recurrent symptoms.

It is important that you avoid your triggers. When itching occurs, talk to your doctor about using a non-prescription oral antihistamine to help alleviate this discomfort. Wearing clothing that is cotton and loose can help to decrease your risk of skin irritation. Cool compresses or a cool bath might also be beneficial for calming irritation and itching.

Why Choose the Allergy Group for Help with Angioedema?

The Allergy Group is staffed with board-certified doctors with experience in this field. Our physician's assistants and doctors have experience in both internal medicine and pediatrics, allowing for diverse patient care. Every patient receives compassionate, comprehensive and personalized care.