Definition

Angioedema is swelling under the surface of the skin with or without redness. It is very common. Angioedema can occur around the eyelids and lips, or on the face, hands, feet, or genitalia. It can also cause swelling of the airways, so it is important to seek medical care.

Causes

Angioedema is often associated with hives. It can be caused by:

  • Foods such as fruits, shellfish, and nuts
  • Medicine such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) inhibitors, penicillin, aspirin, and morphine
  • Infections
  • Inhaled irritants such as pollens, mold spores, and animal dander
  • Certain diseases such as hyperthyroidism, cancer, and rheumatic fever
  • Cold or hot environments
  • Skin contact with plants, animals, or some medicine
  • Skin disease
  • Family history

Hives

Splotchy body rash -adult
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk

This condition is more common in women and people who are 30 to 60 years of age. Things that may increase the risk of angioedema are:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Large swelling with unclear borders around the eyelids and lips
  • Lesions on the face, trunk, genitals, and extremities
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rash that is not itchy

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may ask about any medicine you have taken or recent activity. The diagnosis can often be made by sight. Tests may be done if causes are not clear and it recurs.

Treatment

Minor angioedema may not need treatment. However, it is important to make sure the swelling does not spread to the airway. Symptoms can be eased with medicine such as:

  • Antihistamines—can ease swelling and itching.
  • Corticosteroid drugs—to ease swelling.
  • Epinephrine—fast-acting medicine to ease swelling in severe reactions. This medicine can be carried for emergency use for future events.

It is important to learn what the trigger was. Avoiding the trigger can prevent or reduce future events.

Severe swelling can close off the airway. A small opening may need to be made in the neck. It will create a new airway until the swelling has passed.

Tracheostomy Tube

Tracheostomy Tube
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Prevention

Avoid triggers to reduce chance of more events.