Premier Allergy & Asthma is able to help those who suffer from Hives. Also known as urticaria, this condition involves red, itchy, swollen areas that are less than an inch to a few inches in size, and appear on the skin due to an allergic reaction. This reaction can be caused by certain medicines or eating certain foods, and the spots may stay on the skin for just a couple minutes up to a few hours, and even several days in some cases.
In addition to hives, angioedema is a similar allergic reaction. But rather than appearing on the top of skin, the swelling occurs at deeper layer. It is most commonly seen on the feet, hands, face, and genital areas. The condition can last much longer than hives, but swelling with typically go away within a day. In extreme situations, angioedema can cause the swelling of the tongue and throat, resulting in the blocking of the airway and difficulty breathing. In these cases, it is extremely important to seek emergency help.
Both of these allergic reactions are caused when histamine is released from cells along the blood vessels of the skin. When this happens, plasma leaks out into the skin, causing the swelling and itching to occur. This typically happens due to a reaction to medicine, insect bites, foods, or even sunlight exposure.
There are five different types of hives and angioedema:
- Acute urticaria and/or angioedema – Caused by foods, latex, infections, and medicines that lasts less that six weeks.
- Chronic urticaria and/or angioedema – Caused by many of the same things that result in acute urticaria and also autoimmunity, malignant recurrent hives, and viral infections. These are recurrent hives that last longer than six weeks.
- Physical urticaria – Caused exposure to sunlight, cold air or water, heat, vibration, sweating, exercise, and pressure. These hives typically develop due to direct physical stimulation of the skin.
- Dermatographism – Caused by scratching, continued stroking, or rubbing of the skin due to tight clothing or gloves.
- Hereditary angioedema – Caused by genetics and passed on within families, this is a rare form of angioedema that can cause non-itchy, painful swelling of the skin on areas such as the face, tongue, throat, genitals, and extremities.
To diagnose any of these types of hives or angioedema, a full medical history evaluation and physical examination must be performed. While there are no specific tests designed to determine the cause, skin testing is the preferred method of checking what allergens are the cause. Blood testing is also used to discover if other diseases or illness are the cause of the condition.
In order to properly treat the allergic reaction, it is recommended to avoid any allergen that is the cause. Antihistamines and other medication might also be prescribed by an allergist in order to decrease histamine release and treat chronic conditions. For those who suffer from severe outbreaks, an injection of epinephrine is the preferred method of treatment.