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Angiodema: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About angioedema

Angioedema is an allergic reaction characterised by swelling of some body parts, especially the eyelids and the lips. This swelling occurs in deeper layers of the skin due to the release of a chemical substance called histamine which causes increased dilation of blood vessels. Angioedema may be acquired or inherited.

Angioedema: Incidence, age and sex

Angioedema is not a very uncommon occurrence. It may affect any individual irrespective of age and gender.

Signs and symptoms of angioedema: Diagnosis

The timing of clinical onset after exposure to the allergen is variable. It may take a few minutes or hours to develop. Angioedema is characterised by development of puffiness of mainly eyelids and lips. But other body parts like the ears, the hands, the feet and the genitalia may also show swelling. Sometimes redness of the skin or hoarseness of voice may also occur. In most cases, the clinical symptoms subside within a few hours. Hereditary angioedema may present with repeated episodes of swelling of lips, eyelids, voice box and presence of abdominal cramps.

Causes and prevention of angioedema

Angioedema is most commonly a temporary acquired condition which is caused due to an allergen. Some common allergens which may trigger angioedema include food, pollens, drugs and insect bites. Food products like seafood, egg whites or nuts are commonly associated with angioedema. Similarly, it may also occur on inhalation or contact with animal dander or pollens. Some medications like aspirin, antibiotics like penicillin, blood pressure medications like ACE inhibitors and some pain killers like NSAIDs are usually attributed to angioedema. Angioedema is very rarely inherited as an autosomal dominant genetic disorder which may be associated with leukaemia or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Angioedema: Complications

Occasionally angioedema may become potentially fatal when the voice box or the larynx is involved. Swelling of the voice box may result in difficulty in swallowing or in severe cases, it may also lead to airway compromise. This may cause difficulty in breathing and require immediate medical attention.

Angioedema: Treatment

The diagnosis of angioedema may be evident following a history of exposure and physical examination by the doctor. Mild symptoms may be alleviated by anti-allergic drugs like antihistamines or may even resolve in a few hours without medication.

Severe cases of angioedema may be prescribed oral or injectible steroids. You may be given an injectible drug called epinephrine in life-threatening conditions where swelling in throat causes airway compromise. Steps like the avoidance of known allergens and the elimination of food and food products that trigger angioedema, may be helpful.