Angioedema: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment


What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is a kind of swelling or edema below the skin’s surface. It is some kind of allergic reaction to medicine. It is not normal because it can be recurring. In some cases, it can be life-threatening. It can cause breathing problems. Treatment cannot cure it but it can be controlled by taking some medicines.

Causes of Angioedema

Angioedema is caused by the type of angioedema you have. Angioedema can be divided into four types:

Allergic angioedema – In this case, swelling occurs with certain types of foods, particularly nuts like peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and milk.

Idiopathic Edema – In this case, there is no cause for the swelling. But some of the factors that cause swelling, such as stress or infection may activate the symptoms.

Some types of drugs – In this case, swelling occurs with some types of medications like antibiotics, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen.

Hereditary Angioedema – This type of swelling is caused by some fault in genes that are inherited from a parent. 

Symptoms of Angioedema

The main symptom of angioedema is swelling beneath the layer of the skin surface. The first and foremost key factor is:

Swollen Skin

  • This swelling is caused by the accumulation of fluid in the deep layers of the skin. It mainly affects your hands, feet, eyes, lips, or genitals. In critical cases, the lining of the throat and bowel can be affected. 
  • The swelling generally appears suddenly and is more severe than normal rashes. It usually lasts for 1 to 3 days. There can be irritation in the affected area prior to swelling. 
  • The swelling is not itchy or the skin may look normal in color. But many people with allergic or idiopathic angioedema can develop irritation and rashes that are red and itchy. It will remain for a few days. The skin above the swelling may feel tight and painful but appears to be normal.

Some Other Symptoms

Some other symptoms appear to be less severe. It may include:

  • Swollen areas may feel hot or painful.
  • Swelling inside the throat, the windpipe, and the tongue. It makes breathing difficult.
  • Swelling of the conjunctions (the transparent surface of cells that cover the white part of the eye) affects your vision. 
  • Abdominal pain is caused by swelling in the stomach and bowel due to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Swelling of the bladder or urethra (the tube that connects the bladder and the genitals), can cause bladder problems and difficulty passing urine. 
  • Feeling sick.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting.

Diagnosis of Angioedema

Angioedema is diagnosed by observing the affected areas and symptoms. Further, some tests will be done such as blood tests or allergy tests may be needed to determine the type of angioedema.

The cause of angioedema cannot be determined. 

Treatment of Angioedema

Treatment of Angioedema depends upon its cause. There are various types of treatment for angioedema, each with different causes. Usually, some angioedema fades away on its own after a few days, but others need medications. 

Allergic and Idiopathic angioedema

Treatment is similar for allergic and idiopathic angioedema.

Avoiding Activates

You are advised to avoid doing things and activities that worsen your symptoms. It may help reduce the risk of swelling.

Antihistamines and Steroid Medicine

Antihistamines are used to reduce swelling. It works to block the effects of histamine. It is one of the types of chemicals that is responsible for swelling. Some types of antihistamines can make you feel dizzy and faint. It is better to avoid drinking alcohol, driving, and operating heavy machinery if you feel this way.

Other side effects of Antihistamines include:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry nose

If the swelling is severe, your doctor may give steroid medicine for a short time. This is a very effective medicine used for a short period of time. 

Adrenaline auto-injectors

This type of injection is prescribed for severe allergic reactions.

Drug-induced angioedema

Angioedema cannot be treated with other medicines. Stopping recurrences of angioedema with a drug is helpful.

Hereditary angioedema

Hereditary angioedema cannot be cured but medicines can help to stop and treat the swelling.

Preventing Swelling

If you have hereditary angioedema, there are a number of medicines available to prevent swelling or stop its recurrence.

They include:

Plasma Kallikrein inhibitors such as berotraist and lanadelumab, androgenic hormones such as danazol and oxandrolone. 

Treating Swelling

There are 2 main medicines used to treat swelling caused by hereditary angioedema.

Icatibant – This medicine is given in the form of an injection to obstruct the effects of the chemicals responsible for swelling.

C1 esterase inhibitor replacement – It is a treatment given by injection. It increases the level of the C1 esterase inhibitor in your blood.


Angioedema is a kind of swelling on the surface of the skin. It is not severe, it is a common problem that will go away on its own, but it can be severe in rare cases. Treatment depends on the severity of the problem. It can be mild. The cause of angioedema can be certain types of food or side effects of medicines. It can be treated through medication but in the case of hereditary conditions, it can be controlled and prevented. It gives you relief from symptoms. Although it cannot be cured, it can be managed.

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