Angioedema, also known as Quincke’s edema, is a type of swelling that occurs in the deeper layer of the skin and tissue beneath the skin, often around the face and lips. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the hands, feet and throat.

Angioedema is usually a reaction to an allergen, similar to hives, but it can also be caused by medications or, in rare cases, it can be hereditary. The swelling may come on quickly, and may be accompanied by wheezing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain or light-headedness, depending on the area of the body affected.


In the most severe cases, angioedema can cause the airway to become blocked, making it hard to breathe. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. Treatment could include antihistamines or corticosteroids to reduce swelling, and in the case of an emergency, a method to secure the airway may be necessary.

Causes of Angioedema

Angioedema is the rapid swelling of the skin’s deep layers, often around the eyes and lips, and sometimes of the genitals, hands, feet, and throat. Many aspects can cause angioedema, some of them are:

1. Allergic reactions: This is the most common cause of angioedema. It might occur as a reaction to certain medicines, like antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), blood pressure medications, or certain types of food like peanuts, shellfish, milk eggs, etc. It can also be a reaction to pet dander, pollen, venom from insect bites/stings, etc.

2. Hereditary: In some cases, angioedema is hereditary which means it’s passed down through families. This type is caused by a gene mutation that leads to a protein deficiency or dysfunction.

3. Autoimmune disorders: Certain autoimmune disorders like lupus and hypothyroidism are also known for resulting in angioedema.

4. Idiopathic: This means the cause of the condition is unknown.

5. ACE inhibitors: Angioedema is a known side effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure.

6. Physical factors: In some people, physical factors can cause an episode of angioedema, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise, or sun exposure.

7. Infections and illnesses: Certain viral, bacterial and fungal infections can lead to angioedema. It is also known to occur due to certain types of illnesses like leukemia and lymphoma.

In many cases, the exact cause of angioedema may not be known, which makes it more challenging to prevent.

Risk Factors of Angioedema

Angioedema can be caused due to both hereditary and acquired conditions. Here are some risk factors associated with it:

1. Family History: Hereditary angioedema is an inherited condition. If a person has a family history of this disorder, they are at higher risk for developing it.

2. Allergies: People with allergies are more prone to angioedema. This may occur as part of an allergic reaction to medication, foods, animal dander, pollen, or other substances.

3. Medications: Certain medications can trigger angioedema, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are commonly used to control high blood pressure. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also trigger it.

4. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions like lymphoproliferative disorders, autoimmune diseases, and infections may increase the risk of developing acquired angioedema.

5. Previous Instances: People who have experienced angioedema before are at an increased risk of having it again.

6. Other Factors: Pregnancy, trauma, emotional stress, certain illnesses, or hormonal factors can also trigger angioedema.

Remember, everyone’s bodily response to these factors can be different and it is essential to monitor and seek medical advice if you experience symptoms associated with angioedema.

Signs and Symptoms of Angioedema

Angioedema is an area of swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. This condition often affects the face, particularly the eyes and lips. Other areas, such as the hands, feet, and throat, can also get affected. Symptoms of angioedema can appear suddenly or get worse rapidly. Depending on the cause, individual reactions may vary, but here are some general signs and symptoms:

1. Large and thick welts on the skin: Characterized by sudden and rapid swelling of the dermis, subcutaneous tissue, mucosa, and submucosal tissues. These welts can show up anywhere on the body but often occur near the eyes and lips.

2. Swelling: This can be severe and painful, affecting the hands, feet, and occasionally the genitals. This is often the first visible sign of angioedema.

3. Abdominal cramping: Some people may experience severe abdominal pain due to swelling in the stomach lining.

4. Breathing difficulties: If the swelling occurs in the throat or tongue, it can block the airways, leading to trouble breathing which requires immediate medical attention.

5. Changes in skin color: The skin might become red as a sign of inflammation. Some people may also develop a skin rash around the swollen areas.

6. Tightness in the chest: This is more common in cases where the angioedema is caused by an allergic reaction, potentially indicating a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

7. Light-headedness or fainting: In severe cases, particularly when associated with an allergic reaction, the person may experience low blood pressure leading to dizziness or loss of consciousness.

Remember, any symptom of angioedema can be serious if it’s affecting breathing or swallowing ability. It may develop along with hives, which creates red, itchy, and raised bumps on the skin. While hives are usually visible on the skin’s surface, angioedema occurs in deeper tissues. If you or anyone else experiences these symptoms, please seek medical help immediately.

Diagnosis Angioedema

Angioedema is a condition characterized by localized swelling in the deeper layers of the skin or tissue beneath the skin, often around the eyes and lips. It can also affect the hands, feet, gastrointestinal tract, and genitals. It’s usually a result of an allergic reaction.

The swelling can occur in reaction to certain medications, foods, or other triggers. The condition can also be hereditary or idiopathic (without a known cause). It’s often associated with hives, which cause itchiness on the surface of the skin.

Symptoms may include sudden and rapid swelling of the affected area, redness, heat, pain or discomfort, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, if the throat or tongue swells.

The diagnosis of angioedema is typically based on the patient’s clinical history and physical examination. Blood tests or skin tests may be done to determine possible triggers.

Treatment often involves medication to reduce swelling and to control the allergic reaction. In severe cases, emergency treatment to secure the airways may be needed. If it’s hereditary, ongoing preventative treatment may be recommended.

Remember, if you suspect you have angioedema, especially with difficulty breathing, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment of Angioedema

Angioedema is a condition characterized by swelling in the deeper layers of the body’s skin, often around the eyes and lips. In more severe cases, it can affect the throat and tongue and can lead to breathing difficulty which can be an emergency condition.

Treatment for angioedema depends on the cause and severity of the condition:

1. Medical Emergencies: In severe cases where there’s difficulty in breathing, emergency treatment is needed. This could involve corticosteroids or adrenaline injection.

2. Medications: Antihistamines and oral corticosteroids can help reduce swelling and itchiness. For hereditary angioedema, medications such as C1 inhibitor concentrate, Icatibant, and Ecallantide are commonly used.

3. Prevention: If angioedema is caused by an allergic reaction, the best method is to identify and avoid the trigger.

4. Long-term prophylaxis: For people with frequent episodes, certain medications such as attenuated androgens or antifibrinolytics may be recommended.

Remember, it’s always important to seek advice from a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Medications commonly used for Angioedema

Angioedema is a condition characterized by deep tissue swelling, often around the eyes, lips, and sometimes, the intestines and throat, which can be life-threatening. Here are some of the medications commonly used to treat angioedema:

1. Antihistamines: These are often used in cases of allergic angioedema, which is triggered by things such as certain foods or medications. Examples include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

2. Corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory medications used to reduce swelling and inflammation. They are often used in severe cases of allergic angioedema. Examples include prednisone (Deltasone, Rayos) and methylprednisolone (Medrol).

3. Epinephrine: This medication is typically used in severe, life-threatening episodes of angioedema – especially if it affecting the throat. It’s given via an injection and acts quickly to reduce swelling.

4. Auto-injectable Epinephrine: This is an emergency treatment for life-threatening angioedema which can constrict breathing. Patients with a history of severe reactions may be prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q) to carry with them at all times.

5. C1 inhibitors: These are used in hereditary angioedema, a rare genetic form of the condition. Examples include Cinryze, Berinert and Haegarda. They work by replacing a missing or malfunctioning protein in the blood that controls inflammation.

6. Icatibant (Firazyr): This is another medication used specifically for hereditary angioedema. It works by blocking the action of a peptide, bradykinin, which is thought to contribute to local inflammation and swelling.

7. Ecallantide (Kalbitor): This drug is used in acute attacks of hereditary angioedema in adults. It works by blocking a protein that causes increased vascular permeability and tissue swelling.

8. Fresh frozen plasma: It’s occasionally used in emergency treatment of severe angioedema attacks in patients with hereditary angioedema.

Remember, management of angioedema should always be under a healthcare provider’s supervision given the potential for life-threatening situations. Also, some of these medications have potential side effects which need to be monitored by a healthcare professional.

Prevention of Angioedema

Angioedema is a swelling just below the surface of your skin. It’s often an allergic reaction, but it can also be caused by nonallergic causes such as certain medications, infections or underlying diseases such as thyroid disease or lupus. It can affect various parts of the body such as lips, eyes, hands, feet, genitalia, or inside the throat.

However, here are some strategies to prevent angioedema:

1. Avoid Triggers: If your angioedema is allergy-related, avoid known allergens, such as certain foods, pollen, pet dander, latex, etc.

2. Regular Medication: If you have hereditary angioedema, take regular preventive medication. These can be antihistamines, steroids, or other drugs known to reduce swelling.

3. Use Prescribed Medicines: If you have signs of an allergic reaction, take your prescribed emergency medicine like adrenaline right away.

4. Monitor Diet: Certain foods can trigger angioedema. Common triggers include shellfish, nuts, peanuts, fish, and eggs. Keep a food diary to track what might be setting off your symptoms.

5. Maintain General Health: Having a strong immune system can help prevent angioedema. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can contribute to overall health.

6. Consider carrying an autoinjector: If you’re at risk for severe allergic reactions, carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) to use in emergencies.

However, every patient’s body is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. It is crucial to discuss with a healthcare provider which prevention strategy is best depending on the individual’s specific case and type of angioedema. The healthcare provider may recommend regular check-ups and certain lifestyle changes to minimize the risk of angioedema.

FAQ’s about Angioedema

1. What is angioedema?
Angioedema is a condition that involves swelling beneath the skin, often in the face, lips, tongue, and throat, potentially blocking the airways and making it hard to breathe. It may also affect the hands, genitals, and abdomen.

2. What causes angioedema?
Angioedema can be caused by allergic reactions to medications, foods, insect stings or by a hereditary condition, known as hereditary angioedema. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

3. What are the symptoms of angioedema?
Common symptoms include, rapid swelling of the skin, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat, hands, feet etc., redness in the affected areas, pain, or warmth in the swollen areas, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

4. How is angioedema diagnosed?
Diagnosis often relies on physical examination and detailed medical history. Blood tests might be done to rule out other conditions. If the angioedema is recurrent or family history suggests hereditary angioedema, special blood tests might be done.

5. What treatments are available for angioedema?
Treatment typically involves medication to help reduce swelling and control the immune system. This can include antihistamines, corticosteroids, and epinephrine. In severe cases, prompt emergency care is needed as angioedema can become life-threatening if the throat swells.

6. Are there any preventive measures for angioedema?
Yes, once specific triggers are identified, exposure to these should be avoided. Some forms of angioedema, such as those caused by allergies, can be prevented by taking antihistamines.

7. How does angioedema differ from hives?
While both conditions can cause swelling and itching, they affect different layers of skin. Hives typically cause red, itchy bumps on the surface of the skin. Angioedema involves swelling beneath the skin, often in the face and throat.

8. Is angioedema a chronic condition?
Angioedema can be acute or chronic. Acute angioedema usually resolves within a few days. Chronic angioedema can persist for a long period of time and may require long-term management.

9. Can angioedema be life-threatening?
Severe angioedema can be life-threatening if swelling causes your throat or tongue to block your airway and leads to loss of breath. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate emergency medical care.

10. Is angioedema genetic?
Certain types of angioedema, such as hereditary angioedema, are genetic and can run in families. In these cases, a defective gene affects the body’s ability to regulate certain immune system processes, leading to symptoms.

Useful links

Angioedema is a condition characterized by episodes of severe swelling in the skin and mucous membranes, often affecting the face, throat, arms, legs, or genitals. Here are some useful links from journals for further reading about Angioedema:


These sources should provide a good starting point for information about Angioedema. However, remember to critical evaluate these sources and it is recommended to consult with healthcare professionals for medical concerns.

Complications of Angioedema

Angioedema is a swelling under the skin, often due to an allergic reaction. It can cause discomfort and be quite concerning. The key complications associated with angioedema can include:

1. Breathing difficulties: If angioedema affects the throat and tongue, it can lead to swelling that blocks the airways, making it difficult to breathe, which could be life-threatening without immediate treatment.

2. Anaphylaxis: Angioedema can be a part of anaphylaxis, a severe and sudden allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting.

3. Side effects of medication: Certain medications used to treat angioedema can have side effects, including weight gain, muscle weakness, and high blood pressure.


4. Abdominal pain: Angioedema can cause severe abdominal pain if it affects the gastrointestinal tract. Patients might also experience vomiting and diarrhea, which can further complicate their health condition.

5. Psychological impact: Recurring episodes of angioedema can lead to anxiety and depression, negatively impacting a person’s quality of life.

6. Hereditary angioedema: This is a rare inherited form of the disease, which causes repeated episodes of swelling that often occur without a known trigger. This condition may lead to abdominal cramping and potentially life-threatening airway obstruction.

A healthcare professional should always manage these complications, and immediate treatment should be sought if breathing difficulties occur.

Home remedies of Angioedema

Angioedema is a form of swelling underneath the skin, often as a reaction to allergens, medications, or physical triggers. It’s important to note that severe cases of angioedema can lead to life-threatening complications, and professional medical intervention should be sought immediately.

Home remedies, however, can be used for mild cases, to control symptoms, or in conjunction with prescribed treatments. Here are a few you can consider:

1. Applying Cold Compress: This can help reduce swelling and provide some relief. However, do not put ice directly on the skin. Always wrap it in cloth first.

2. Wearing Comfortable Clothing: Tight fitting clothes can irritate the swelling causing discomfort.

3. Avoidance of Triggers: The best form of prevention is to avoid known allergens or triggers that may prompt episodes of angioedema.

4. Good Hydration: Staying well hydrated can help your body manage inflammation and support its healing processes.

5. Healthy Diet: A well-balanced diet that is low in processed foods and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps boost the immune system.

6. Over-the-counter Antihistamines: These can aid in alleviating symptoms, especially when the angioedema is allergy-related.

Please remember that these remedies, particularly medication, should also be discussed with healthcare providers, as they can be contraindicated in certain medical conditions or further complicate angioedema.

In all cases of angioedema, professional medical advice should always be sought at the earliest notice of symptoms. If you experience trouble breathing or severe symptoms, seek immediate emergency treatment.

Categorized in:

Skin Care,

Last Update: January 11, 2024