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Angioedema

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Possible Symptoms for Angioedema

  • Sudden swelling under the skin.[1]
  • Swelling on the surface of the skin.
  • Painful or itchy welts.
  • Swelling around the eyes and mouth.
  • Swelling of the lining of the eyes.
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet, and genitalia.[2]
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Breathing difficulty.

Top 8 Angioedema Causes

1. Allergic Reaction

An allergic reaction causes histamine to release into the bloodstream. Histamine dilates the blood vessels to help immune cells arrive at the site of an injury.[3] Dilated blood vessels cause the skin to swell, which may be recognized as angioedema. Allergens that can cause angioedema include pollen, animal dander, insect bites, and medicines.[1]

2. Infections and Illnesses

Certain types of infections and illnesses may cause angioedema.[1] Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, lymphoma, and leukemia may trigger swelling as the way the immune system attacks healthy cells can cause inflammation.

3. Genetics

A form of angioedema known as hereditary angioedema can be passed down through families.[4] Hereditary angioedema is caused by problems with the C1 inhibitor — a type of protein in the immune system that enhances the performance of antibodies and cells that protect against inflammation.[5] People who have this type of angioedema usually have relatives with the same condition.

4. Medications

Certain medications can cause a form of angioedema known as drug-induced angioedema. Beta-lactam antibiotics, ACE inhibitors, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen have all been linked to drug-induced angioedema.[6]

5. Environmental Factors

Exposure to sunlight can cause angioedema, as well as exposure to water, cold, and heat.[7] Environmental factors such as these are found to trigger the body’s histamine production and cause swelling in certain individuals.

6. Food Sensitivities

Certain foods can trigger allergic reactions and swelling in people who have sensitivities and intolerances. Eggs, shellfish, milk, soy, and peanuts are among the most common foods that can cause reactions such as angioedema.[8] Lactose, MSG, and gluten may also be problematic for many individuals.

7. Emotional Stress

At times of stress, the body increases its production of hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline, and histamine. An increased amount of histamine in the system can lead to more severe reactions, including angioedema in those who already suffer from allergies.[9]

8. Exercise

Histamines are sometimes released by the body in response to strenuous exercise to help protect against fatigue and exhaustion.[10] People who have a history of allergies may experience angioedema when exercising.

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6 Ways to Prevent Angioedema

1. Avoid Allergens

Avoid exposing yourself to known allergy triggers. Stay away from pets that produce dander and stay inside when pollen counts are high. You may also take prescribed medications that reduce swelling or calm an overactive immune system. Avoiding allergens may help you prevent the onset of angioedema symptoms.

2. Manage Autoimmune Disorders

Receive treatment for lupus, leukemia, and other autoimmune disorders that cause angioedema. Common symptoms of autoimmune disorders include fever, fatigue, joint pain, rash, and a general feeling of illness or discomfort.[11] Treatments for autoimmune disorders may include physical therapy, nutritional supplements, and blood transfusions.

3. Stop Using Certain Medications

Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments if you’re currently using ACE inhibitors, antibiotics, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. All these medicines have been linked to angioedema.[6] However, don’t stop using these medications without first receiving your doctor’s approval.

4. Change Your Diet

Stay away from certain foods that cause allergic reactions or to which you are sensitive to prevent angioedema. Work with your doctor to eliminate these foods from your diet without putting your nutrition at risk. Also, read the labels of processed foods and stay away from those made in the same facilities as those foods you are allergic to.

5. Manage Stress

Experiencing some stress from time to time is normal, but experiencing chronic stress that doesn’t go away can have a major negative impact on your overall health and well-being. Come up with a plan that involves healthy ways to manage stress if stressful moments are likely to trigger angioedema. Walk away from people and situations that may be inducing stress or listen to soothing music to help you feel calmer.

6. Start Slow with Exercise

Don’t engage in strenuous physical activity if your body isn’t conditioned for the activity or if you’re at a beginner’s fitness level. Instead, work your way up slowly to strenuous and vigorous physical activities. This may help reduce your risk for angioedema.

Possible Angioedema Treatment Options:

  • Cool compresses or soaks.[1]
  • Antihistamines.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Epinephrine shots.
  • Inhaler medicines.
  • C1 esterase inhibitors.[4]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Angioedema Treatment:

  • Are there certain triggers that cause your swelling?
  • How long do your symptoms last?
  • How often do you experience swelling?
  • Do you suffer abdominal cramps or breathing difficulty at the same time as swelling?
  • Do you have any known allergies?
  • Are you regularly exposed to allergens?
  • Have you been diagnosed with an infection or illness?
  • Do any of your relatives have angioedema or problems with swelling?
  • What medications are you currently using?
  • Have you recently started using any new vitamins or nutritional supplements?
  • Have you tried certain treatments to reduce swelling?

Angioedema May Also Be Known as:

  • Hereditary angioedema.[1]
  • Drug-induced angioedema.
  • Angioneurotic edema.
  • Welts.
  • Allergic reaction.
  • Hives.
  • Anaphylaxis.[12]
  • Allergic angioedema.
  • Idiopathic angioedema.
  • Gleich’s syndrome.
  • Acquired angioedema.

References

12 Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.