Angioedema involves swelling of the skin and mucosal membranes, such as the eyes, lips, and tongue, but it can affect all parts of the body.
Angioedema is a short-lived skin reaction that sometimes occurs alongside hives. It involves swelling of the skin and mucosal membranes, such as the eyes, lips, and tongue. These are the most common sites for angioedema, but it can affect all parts of the body. In severe cases, internal organs such as the sinuses, intestines, throat, and even the trachea can be affected, potentially causing breathing difficulties. Swelling of the intestines may cause abdominal pain and cramps.
Angioedema can be caused by an allergic reaction to:
- Medications such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure
- Radiocontrast dye
- Insect venom
- Physical or emotional stress
- Other chemical materials, such as latex rubber
Angioedema can also be caused by a group of genetic conditions called hereditary angioedema, where the person either has a nonfunctional or abnormally low level of the C1 inhibitor protein. This can lead to abnormal activation of the immune system and lead to swelling.
The presence of angioedema can be dangerous and life-threatening if it involves swelling of the airway as this can block the ability of a person to be able to breathe. The presence of angioedema is an emergency and should be evaluated urgently by a physician, especially if there are any signs of difficulty in breathing. Some of the medications that are used in the treatment of angioedema include:
- Anti-histamines (via oral intake or IV)
- Epinephrine (via injections or IV)
- Corticosteroids (via oral intake or IV)
- Medications that suppress the immune system such as prednisone
- Omalizumab injections
- Anabolic steroids (stanazol, oxandrolone, and danazol), which increases C1 inhibitor protein levels in the body so that the immune is not abnormally activated.
- Transfusion of C1 inhibitor protein
- Tranexamic acid, for treating a special type of hereditary angioedema that is exclusively in children