Angioedema can be pretty uncomfortable and frightening. It is a medical condition characterized by swelling of the face, hands, feet, and other body parts. This condition can also result in a rash or blisters as well.
However, due to this condition’s painless and fast-growing nature, it is often mistaken for other skin conditions. Therefore, you must know how to diagnose it properly to get timely medical attention.
You may be suffering from angioedema if you have swelling, tenderness, and a feeling of tightness in your face, hands, feet, or genitals. Urgent care is the right place to seek relief for this condition. Visit an urgent care center near you to treat angioedema symptoms.
What is Angioedema?
Angioedema is a condition that causes swelling within the skin and in the linings of your nose, lips, eyes, genitals, or hands.
The swelling usually occurs within minutes of exposure to an allergen or trigger. It starts as a small lump on one area and may spread to other body parts. The swelling can be painful and affect many different body parts at once.
You may also experience hives (urticaria) with angioedema. Urticaria is an itchy rash that appears as red welts on your skin. Hives may occur alone or with other symptoms such as swelling and itching.
Angioedema most often affects the face, lips, hands, feet, and genital area. The affected area may become swollen and feel warm to the touch. In severe cases, angioedema can cause difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.
Types of Angioedema
1. Acute Urticaria and Angioedema, or AUE
This is the most common form of angioedema. It can occur at any age but most often develops in children and young adults.
Acute urticaria and angioedema are caused by an allergic reaction to a food or medication. Once you know what triggers your AUE, you can avoid it or take steps to prevent a response if you accidentally eat or accept it.
2. Angioedema Associated With Hereditary Angioedema (HAE)
HAE is a rare genetic disorder that causes swelling in various body parts, including the face, hands, feet, and airways (larynx).
In HAE, the blood vessels leak fluid into surrounding tissues causing swelling. It usually affects people with a close relative with HAE or someone who has experienced at least one episode of AUE.
3. Chronic Idiopathic Edema
This angioedema lasts longer than six weeks and frequently recurs (more than twice a year). Symptoms tend to occur during periods of emotional stress or after eating certain foods.
4. Drug-Induced Angioedema (DIED)
DIED is caused by certain medications such as ACE inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), penicillin’s, sulfa antibiotics, and calcium channel blockers.
5. Localized Angioedema
Localized angioedema is less common than generalized but can affect any body part. It occurs without apparent reason and is unrelated to food allergies or medications.
Localized angioedema may be associated with allergies such as hay fever or asthma, but this isn’t always true.
6. Generalized Angioedema
Generalized angioedema occurs when there is swelling in multiple areas of your body. It may be triggered by an allergic reaction to certain foods or medications, such as ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure).
Causes of Angioedema
Allergies are one of the most common causes of angioedema. Allergies can affect the skin, nose, and eyes, but they can also affect the airways and gastrointestinal tract. This type of allergy is known as a food allergy.
The most common food allergies are allergies to peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.), eggs, milk products (including lactose intolerance), soybeans, and wheat. However, food allergies can be caused by any food the individual is allergic to.
Other types of allergies include latex allergies (latex gloves), bee sting allergies (bee stings), medications such as penicillin or sulfa drugs, and insect venom allergies such as bee stings or fire ant bites.
Medications are another common cause of angioedema because they may contain ingredients that trigger an allergic reaction, such as penicillin or sulfa drugs used for infections like strep throat or pneumonia.
Infections such as strep throat or mononucleosis can cause angioedema by stimulating the immune system. The condition might cause a hypersensitive reaction in your body that triggers angioedema.
The swelling usually subsides once the infection is treated with antibiotics or other medications.
4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in your digestive tract. It can affect any part of the digestive tract, from mouth to anus. There are two main types of IBD:
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both conditions cause severe digestive tract inflammation, but they affect different areas. For example, Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive tract, while ulcerative colitis affects only the large intestine (colon).
5. Diseases of the Blood Vessels
Diseases that affect your blood vessels can increase the risk of developing angioedema. Examples include lupus, vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels), Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and scleroderma. These conditions have different symptoms and cause various symptoms in other parts of your body.
6. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body because it thinks they’re foreign invaders or harmful substances.
Some autoimmune diseases can lead to angioedema due to an overactive immune response against harmless substances in your body, such as food or pollen (hay fever). Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac disease (celiac sprue).
7. Urticaria or Hives
These are the most common cause of angioedema, affecting up to 10% of people in the United States. Hives are red and raised welts on the skin that itch but don’t hurt.
They can be triggered by many things, including stress, certain foods, medications, and more. Angioedema occurs when tiny blood vessels swell and leak fluid into the surrounding tissue causing it to swell.
Signs and Symptoms of Angioedema
The most common place for skin swelling is the face, which can cause lips to swell, eyes to close, and tongue to swell. Swelling of the hands or extremities may also occur.
This is due to a tightening of the throat and upper airway (larynx), making breathing hard.
Tissue swelling in other areas of the body may also occur, including in the abdomen (abdominal distention), genitalia, hands or feet (periorbital edema), eyelids, genitals, buttocks, and legs (butterfly-shaped rash).
Other symptoms may include nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting resulting from intestinal swelling; abdominal pain; difficulty swallowing; abdominal tenderness; joint pain; headache; fatigue; fever; chills; muscle aches; loss of consciousness (fainting).
Diagnosis of Angioedema
Angioedema is diagnosed by history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.
A careful history is significant in diagnosing because many other conditions resemble angioedema clinically.
In addition, some patients with angioedema may have had a previous episode of urticaria or hives. However, the association between urticaria/angioedema and other systemic diseases is not shared.
2. Physical Examination
Angioedema is characterized clinically by circumscribed edematous swelling of the lips, tongue, and palate and facial swelling (usually periorbital). The swelling usually lasts for hours or days but can be permanent in some patients.
3. Laboratory Tests
There are no specific laboratory tests for diagnosing angioedema. The serum histamine level is elevated in most patients with urticaria and angioedema; however, an elevated histamine level does not confirm the diagnosis of angioedema.
Because it is also elevated in patients with other causes of acute urticaria/angioedema (e.g., infection). It is essential to consider other reasons of acute urticaria/ang
The doctor may take a blood sample to look for an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). This can help confirm the diagnosis if there are no other possible causes for your symptoms.
If you have had similar symptoms in the past, your doctor may ask you to keep an allergy diary to track when symptoms occur and what triggers them. This can help determine whether an allergy medicine might help prevent or lessen your symptoms.
Treatment of Angioedema
The treatment of angioedema is based on its cause. The patient must avoid the allergens if it is due to an allergy. For example, if you are allergic to shellfish, avoid eating shellfish or any food containing shellfish.
If angioedema is due to an underlying disease or disorder, then treating that condition will help control angioedema. For example, if you have celiac disease and develop angioedema, treating your celiac disease will help control your angioedema.
If a drug causes your angioedema and you can stop taking it, this may also help control it.
Prevention of Angioedema
The following measures may be necessary:
- Resting with feet up or lying flat with legs raised. This can help reduce swelling in the legs.
- An antihistamine such as cetirizine or loratadine helps prevent further fluid retention.
- Avoid certain foods such as dairy products, eggs, nuts, and peanuts.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
- Take a medication called epinephrine (Adrenaline) if you have severe swelling in your throat or face that makes it difficult to breathe or swallow. The injection is given under the skin (subcutaneously) and can be repeated every 10 minutes if necessary until the symptoms improve.
How University Urgent Care Can Help You Relief Angioedema
University Urgent Care located in Fort Worth, TX, offers convenient urgent care services to patients in the greater who are experiencing symptoms of angioedema. Our board-certified physicians have years of experience treating this condition and can provide an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.