Angioedema (AN-gee-oh-eh-DEE-muh) is a sudden appearance of swollen patches (edema) on the skin or mucous membranes. It most often involves the face, lips, mouth, tongue, back of throat, or vocal cords. It may also occur in other places, such as the arms, legs, or genitals. A rash may also appear during the first 4 days of this illness.
There are different types of angioedema. Sometimes angioedema is part of an allergic reaction (allergic angioedema). Other times angioedema is present without any other signs of allergic reaction (isolated angioedema). Your symptoms will depend on what type of angioedema you have. Like allergic reactions, angioedema may include:
Rash, hives, redness, welts, blisters
Itching, burning, stinging, pain
Dry, flaky, cracking, or scaly skin
Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or other parts of the body
More severe symptoms may include:
Trouble swallowing, or feeling like your throat is closing
Trouble breathing or wheezing
Hoarse voice or trouble speaking
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps
Feeling faint or lightheaded, rapid heart rate, or low blood pressure
Angioedema can be triggered by exposure to certain substances. Medical conditions involving the immune systems and certain infections may cause it. In rare cases, angioedema can be hereditary. Sometimes the cause may be very clear. However, it's often hard to find a cause. The most common causes of allergic angioedema include:
Foods, such as shrimp, shellfish, peanuts, milk products, gluten, and eggs; also colorings, flavorings, and additives
Insect bites or stings, from bees, mosquitoes, fleas, or ticks
Medicines, such as ACE inhibitors, penicillin medicines, sulfa medicines, , aspirin, and ibuprofen
Latex, which may be in gloves, clothes, toys, balloons, and some kinds of tape. People who are allergic to latex may have problems with foods such as bananas, avocados, kiwi, papaya, or chestnuts.
Heat, cold, or sunlight
The most common cause of angioedema is a reaction to a class of medicines called ACE inhibitors. These are used to treat high blood pressure. ACE inhibitors include lotensin, captopril, enalapril, and lisinopril. Angiodema can happen even after you have been taking the medicine for some time. Tell your healthcare provider if you have angioedema symptoms and are taking any of these medicines. Angioedema may recur. It's important to watch for the earliest signs of this condition (see the list below). Contact your healthcare provider right away if swelling involves the face, mouth, or throat.
Rest quietly today. Don't do vigorous physical activity.
Medicines. The healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for itching, swelling, or pain. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions when taking these medicines.
Oral diphenhydramine is an antihistamine available without a prescription. Unless a prescription antihistamine was given, diphenhydramine may be used to reduce widespread itching. It may make you sleepy, so be careful using it when going to school, working, or driving. (Note: Don't use diphenhydramine if you have glaucoma or if you are a man who has trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate.) Loratadine is an antihistamine that may cause less drowsiness.
Don't use diphenhydramine cream on your skin. Some people can have an allergic reaction to this.
Calamine lotion or oatmeal baths sometimes help with itching.
You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed.
If you were told that your angioedema was caused by a medicine you are taking, you must stop taking it. Ask your healthcare provider for a different one. In the future, advise medical staff that you are allergic to this medicine.
If medicine was prescribed, such as steroids or antihistamines, be sure you understand what the medicine is and how to take it.
Make sure you don't scratch areas of the body that had a reaction. This will help prevent infection.
Stay away from air pollution, tobacco, and wood smoke. Also stay away from cold temperatures. These things can make allergy symptoms worse.
Try to find out what caused your reaction. Make sure to remove the allergen. Future reactions may be worse.
If you have a serious allergy, wear a medical alert bracelet that notes this allergy.
If the healthcare provider prescribed an epinephrine auto injector kit, keep it with you at all times.
Tell all care providers about your allergy. Ask them how to use any prescribed medicines.
Keep a record of allergies and symptoms, and when they occurred. This will help your provider treat you over time.
Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. You may need to see an allergist. An allergist can help find the cause of an allergic reaction and give recommendations on how to prevent future reactions.
Call 911 right away if any of these occur:
Trouble breathing or swallowing, or wheezing
Hoarse voice or trouble speaking, or drooling
Chest pain or tightness
Confusion, lightheadedness, or dizziness
Extreme drowsiness or trouble awakening
Fainting or loss of consciousness
Rapid heart rate
Vomiting blood, or large amounts of blood in stool
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or stomach cramps
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:
Symptoms don't go away
Symptoms come back
Symptoms get worse or new symptoms develop
Hives feel uncomfortable
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C), or as directed by your healthcare provider
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