Friday, September 27, 2013

Chronic Urticaria and Angioedema - What's the Difference?

Urticaria & Angioedema are classified as autoimmune disease's very much like Rheumatoid arthritis (immune cells attack the body's own healthy tissues). The resulting flares or attacks in there most aggressive form are also very similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis in as much as they all have systemic effects (i.e. affecting the entire body).

Urticaria & Angioedema can be both acute or chronic, the two may develop individually or as is often the case simultaneously. Recurrent episodes of one or both these conditions for less than six weeks would be considered acute, whereas longer lasting attacks (over six weeks) are considered to be chronic. Both Angioedema and Urticaria are often viewed as varying manifestations of the same pathogenic process.

Post capillary inflammation results in fluid leakage and edema in both of the conditions, the difference being that with Urticaria the release of histamine is localized to the top layer of the skin or the dermis, however the condition known as Angioedema involves vessels in the layers below the dermis (top layer)

Angioedema, & Urticaria, are classified as allergic reactions, hereditary, or idiopathic (no apparent or obvious reason). Symptoms of Urticaria range from small bumps (hives) which resemble nettle rash to defined weal's and welts which can cover only parts of the body or in many cases the whole body. These weal's often grow in size connecting with neighbouring weal's

Symptoms of Angioedema are usually restricted to the head are, severe swelling often occurs around the mouth, eyes and lips, this swelling can at times be so bad that the sufferer may look disfigured and unrecognisable, other complications attributed to Angioedema range from dysphonia or dysphagia to respiratory distress, complete airway obstruction, and death in a very limited amount of cases.


Angioedema, & Urticaria has no racial predilection.


Women tend to be more predisposed to Angioedema, & Urticaria than men.


Persons who are predisposed have an increase in frequency of attacks after adolescence, with the peak of there condition occurring after they reach around 30 years of age.

Medications used to treat both conditions currently include Antihistamine (histamine blockers), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), biological response modifiers, and corticosteroids. Other medicines that are designed to manage one's own immune system (called Immuno-suppressants) can also be used to fight severe chronic conditions.

Patients should always consult with their doctor about the choice of medication or exercise programmes. Medicines must be used with caution and patients should always tell their doctors about any changes that occur.

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