What are Angioedema?
Diagnosing Angioedema
What Causes Angioedema?
Help for Angioedema ?
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Angioedema, also known as Quincke's edema is the rapid edema (swelling) of the deep layers of skin - the dermis, subcutaneous tissue, mucosa and submucosal tissues. Although similar to urticaria (hives), urticaria only occurs in the upper dermis. A significant number of patients have both urticaria and angioedema.

Due to the risk of suffocation, rapidly progressing angioedema is treated as a medical emergency. When angioedema is the result of an allergic reaction the patient is usually injected with adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is not effective when the cause is hereditary. Some patients are given antihistamines and steroid tablets.

The edema, caused by an accumulation of fluid, can be severe and can affect any part of the body, including the hands, feet, genitals, lips and eyes.

There are four main kinds of angioedema: allergic, idiopathic, drug induced and hereditary:

1. Allergic angioedema - the most common type and usually affects those with some kind of food allergy. It can also be caused by insect bites, contact with latex, and some medications, such as penicillin or aspirin. In severe cases the throat can swell, making it hard for the patient to breath. There may also be a sudden drop in blood pressure. A severe allergic reaction like this is known as anaphylaxis. This type of angioedema is not chronic (long-term), because the individual soon identifies which food is causing the allergic reaction and avoids it.

2. Drug-induced angioedema - certain medications can cause swelling in the deep layers of skin, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors which are used for treating hypertension (high blood pressure). Symptoms may linger for a few months after the patient stops taking the medication. Less commonly, this type of angioedema might be caused by bupropion, SSRI antidepressants, COX-II inhibitors, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, and proton pump inhibitors. Getting angioedema from medications is uncommon.

3. Idiopathic angioedema - idiopathic means we are not sure what the cause is. Experts say that an infection, fear, anxiety, stress, caffeine, overheating, wearing tight clothes, and alcohol may bring it on. It may also be caused by a thyroid gland problem, iron (folic acid) and vitamin B12 deficiency.

4. Hereditary angioedema - the patient has inherited a faulty gene(s). Urticaria is very uncommon with this type of angioedema. This is the rarest type. Blood levels of the protein C1-esterase inhibitor (C1-1NH protein) are low. C1-1NH protein plays a key role in regulating our immune system. In this type of angioedema symptoms develop gradually, rather than rapidly. Patients usually start having symptoms after puberty. It can be triggered by pregnancy, contraceptive pills, infection, or trauma. Patients are usually effectively treated with medication.

Cases where angioedema progresses rapidly should be treated as a medical emergency, as airway obstruction and suffocation can occur. Epinephrine may be life-saving when the cause of angioedema is allergic. In the case of hereditary angioedema, treatment with epinephrine has not been shown to be helpful.
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