Angioedema: Meaning, Causes and Symptoms

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Are you experiencing sudden swelling around your eyes, lips, or throat? Is there any appearance of large welts that cause discomfort? Then, it could be angioedema, a condition deserving your prompt attention and understanding. 

In this blog post,  we will look into the definition of angioedema and its causes to familiarize ourselves with its symptoms.

What is Angioedema? 

Angioedema is a health condition where certain body parts, like the skin and tissues beneath, swell up without leaving a dent when pressed. This swelling can happen in different areas of the body, usually around the lips, face, and neck. But it may also show up on arms and legs as well as inside the cavity of the mouth, larynx, or gut.

Angioedema Causes

Angioedema has several causes. Allergies play a significant role in triggering angioedema, with various culprits such as:

  • Food Allergies

Besides the usual suspects (milk, eggs, and shellfish, to name a few), an untold number of foods can lead to outbreaks. Some reactions may occur very quickly after consumption; others often have a delayed onset.

  • Medication Allergies

Other than penicillin and sulfa drugs, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or the contrast media used in imaging tests, are also known to elicit angioedema. This allergy may be associated with the development of hives, which should not be ignored in clinical assessment.

  • Venom

Some stinging insects, such as bees, wasps and hornets, can inject their venom, setting off angioedema attacks. Bites from relatively rare spiders like the brown recluse can also lead to angioedema. 

  • Natural Rubber Latex

Latex, which is found in everything from gloves and balloons to catheters, can cause allergies that lead to angioedema. People who constantly use latex-containing products, such as healthcare workers, are also more likely to be affected.

  • Other Causes

Problems with the C1 inhibitor protein, either inherited or acquired (HAE), cause recurring episodes of swelling. It’s also possible to have angioedema in response to medications without typically allergy-related symptoms of itchiness and hives.

 Angioedema Symptoms

The first step in treating angioedema is recognizing its symptoms, which can lead to timely diagnosis and medical treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling

Swelling occurs in the eyes, lips, face, throat, hands, and genitals occasionally. The swelling usually comes on suddenly and lasts for an indefinite period.

  • Pain and Discomfort

The greater the swelling, the more severe the pain and discomfort. This can affect daily activities. Itching or a burning sensation generally adds to the discomfort.

  • Difficulty Breathing

Swellings of the upper airway can develop quickly, and breathing problems may prove fatal.

Respiratory distress may be accompanied by wheezing, coughing or a sense of tightness in the chest.

  • Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can come in many varieties, from cramping to constant aches. In addition to pain, abdominal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may also occur. Indications like diarrheal stools abound, too.

  • Rash or Redness

The rash or redness may change in appearance and distribution over time. The affected area often feels warmer than the rest. Its texture may also be altered.


Angioedema is a complicated medical disease with numerous causes and symptoms. Knowing the angioedema causes and being able to recognize angioedema symptoms early, is important for providing care. If you think you have angioedema or observe someone struggling with severe symptoms, go to the hospital right away and get treated in time.

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