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Angioedema

Angioedema is a severe local swelling of the skin, particularly around the eyes, lips, nose, tongue, voicebox (larynx) or hands. The swelling happens because too much fluid collects in the deep layers of skin tissue. The top layer of skin may look normal. Angioedema can continue for hours or even days.

It often happens at the same time as hives or urticaria, which are itchy swellings on the surface of the skin. Angioedema itself does not, however, cause itchiness.

Some types of angioedema are idiopathic – this means there is no known reason why a person gets it. Another 1 in 50,000 people inherit the genes for this condition from their parents.

Acute (short term) and allergic angioedema can be set off (triggered) by a type of allergic reaction, for example a reaction to an insect sting, or by contact with certain foodstuffs, plants, drugs or pollens. Attacks in people with inherited angioedema can be triggered by stress, or minor operations such as dental surgery.

Angioedema sometimes used to be called angioneurotic oedema.