What is it?

Urticaria, also known as hives, is a common skin condition that presents as raised, itchy lesions that can be either redisch-pink or skin colored. Urticaria is usually caused by an allergic reaction but may also appear as part of another systemic disease or with no apparent cause. Triggers can be insect bites, drugs, food ingestion, viruses, infections and more. However, the specific cause remains unknown in many cases. Urticaria may be acute, if it lasts less than six weeks, or chronic. This is rather arbitrary, and simply represents the time in which most cases resolve on their own.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Allergic Urticaria
- Cholinergic Urticaria
- Idiopathic Urticaria
- Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria
- Vibratory Urticaria

Signs & symptoms

Urticaria may appear in every area of the body, and presens as intensity itchy, raised reddish-pink or skin colored lesions, commonly with a central pallor. The lesions tend to change their shape and location within minutes to hours. Most cases resolve spontaneously. Angioedema, which is swelling of the skin and mucous membranes, may also be present. This can be life threatening when the throat is involved, causing airway obstruction.

Diagnosis

Urticaria is diagnosed clinically, based on physical examination, symptoms, and medical history. It is important to understand whether angioedema, a life threatening condition, is present. This is done by asking or examining whether there is difficulty breathing, a hoarse voice, throat tightening etc. In addition, since urticaria can appear as part of another systemic disease, it is important to look carefully for signs and symptoms that are suggestive for such cases.

Treatment

The initial treatment of new onset urticaria focuses on the short-term relief of the itchiness and angioedema, if present. This is usually achieved by antihistamine drugs, a class of drugs that cause stabeling of mast cells, and prevent histamine release by them. Mast cells are cells that release histamine, a substance that binds to different receptors in our body and causes allergic symptoms. Glucocorticoids are sometimes added for a few days in patients with angioedema or severe symptoms. Biologic agents are sometimes used in cases of chronic urticaria that does not sufficiently react to anti histamines.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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