Swelling (Angioedema)

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Angioedema is a common condition that involves swelling beneath the surface of the skin with or without redness. This can occur around the eyelids and lips, or on the face, hands, feet or genitalia.

Angioedema is often associated with urticaria (hives). It can be caused by:

  • Foods, like fruits, shellfish and nuts
  • Medications
  • Infection
  • Inhaled substances, such as pollens, mold spores or animal dander
  • Certain diseases, including thyroid autoimmunity (hypothyroidism), cancer, and rheumatic fever
  • Skin contact with plants, animals or medications
  • Skin disease
  • Family history

Are You at Risk?

Risk factors that increase your chance of developing angioedema, include:

  • Age: 30-60 years old
  • Other conditions:
    • Asthma
    • Eczema
    • Hives
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Taking NSAIDs drugs
  • Emotional stress
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Menstruation


If you experience any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to angioedema. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. See a physician if you experience any of the following:

  • Large swelling with unclear borders around the eyelids and lips
  • Lesions on the face, trunk, genitals and extremities
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Abdominal pain
  • A rash that is not itchy

Diagnosing & Treating Angioedema

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin tests
  • Throat culture
  • Stool sample
  • Abdominal ultrasound

Minor episodes of angioedema may need no treatment. However, it is important to make sure the swelling does not spread to your airway, which can be life-threatening. Treatment options include:

  • Medications 
  • Tracheostomy — If your airway is affected, your doctor may place a tube in your throat to keep your airway open