Skin diseases: Urticaria hives and angioedema

Urticaria and angioedema are a pattern of reaction of the skin and they are characterized by an intense itching in the case of urticaria and an edema on lips and eyelids in the case of angioedema. The term urticaria comes from the Latin term that makes reference to the cutaneous process with intense itching and ardor sensation which comes along the emergence of lesions in the whole cutaneous surface and sometimes it can also affect mucous membrane.

The angioedema is also known with the old term of angioneurotic oedema and is characterized by a quick tumefaction of the skin, mucous membrane and submucosal tissues. It can emerge as a result of an allergic reaction or as a secondary effect caused by the intake of some drugs or medicines. There is also a hereditary type of this condition which is caused by the deficiency of the blood protein known as C1-inhibitor; this type is known as hereditary angioedema. The skin of the face, normally surrounding the mouth and the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat and tongue are inflamed for a period that can last from a few minutes to many hours. The tumefaction can take place in some other areas like hands.

 Sometimes the angioedema can emerge as a consequence of the exposition of skin to some type of allergens (for instance, peanuts) and urticaria can be developed in a simultaneous way, although in many occasions the cause for this condition can also be unknown.  In the presence of angioedema there is no itching but burning or tightness and in relation to the localization of the angioedema there can emerge symptoms of gastrointestinal nature like abdominal pain, vomits and diarrhea, nauseas, and there can be observed breathing symptoms too like dysphonia, rhinorrhea, dyspnea and sneezing. Finally, cardiovascular symptoms can also be observed like hypotension or tachycardia.

Urticaria alone is present on forty percent of the cases and accompanied by angioedema in fifty percent of the cases, angioedema alone is present only on the remaining ten percent of the cases. The emergence of these reactions is due to the increment of permeability on dermal vessels or due to the substances or mediators that are released by some cells known as basophils and mastocytes. Which is characteristic on this process is that lesions tend to disappear after a few hours.

Who can be affected by urticaria hives and angioedema?

Any person can be affected by these conditions and people of both genres have the same rate of incidence. Old people and children are not usually affected by any of these conditions. The triggering factor is the release of mediators with multiple immune mechanisms (which are related with the immune system or the body defenses) and mechanisms of other nature.

Among the main etiologic agents with great incidence on the emergence of urticaria hives we can find:

  • Medicines
  • Foods like eggs, chocolate, milk, fish, tomatoes, shellfish, pig, strawberries and yeast
  • Insect bites: wasps, bees