Angioedema

Excellence in Angioedema Care

UC San Diego Health System operates a comprehensive angioedema program and is at the forefront of angioedema research. Staffed by world-class physicians and researchers, we are committed to improving the future of people living with acute and chronic swelling caused by angioedema.

Angioedema care at UC San Diego Health System provides:

  • Broad range of highly personalized services for angioedema patients
  • The latest and most advanced therapies and treatments
  • Innovative options in angioedema diagnosis and management
  • Expert consultation services for physicians
  • Clinical trials and groundbreaking basic and translational research
  • Consultations on both U.S. and international angioedema cases

What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is swelling that occurs within the skin. While angioedema often involves the face and lips, it can potentially affect any region of the body. Angioedema can also occur in mucous membranes such as the mouth, throat and less commonly, the intestines.

Potential causes of angioedema include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Medication side effects
  • Genetic (hereditary) conditions

In rare instances, angioedema may be associated with an autoimmune disease, infection or specific type of malignancy. However, angioedema often occurs spontaneously without any identifiable underlying medical problem.

The focus of angioedema management is to safely suppress the symptoms.

What Causes It?

While there are several types of angioedema, they are usually a result of one of the following factors:

  1. Histamine-release due to allergies, infections, autoimmune conditions or mast cell activation from undetermined causes.
  2. Excessive bradykinin production in the skin (usually caused by either a genetic protein deficiency or as a side effect of medication).

TYPES OF ANGIOEDEMA

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Angioedema caused by ACE-Inhibitor

ACE-inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure) is a cause of angioedema in 4 to 8 percent of individuals with the condition. Swelling can appear from just a few hours or years after starting medication. This type of swelling is thought to be caused by excessive bradykinin buildup.

Angioedema due to acquired C1INH deficiency

A rare cause of angioedema, acquired C1INH deficiency occurs as a result of an underlying disorder (usually a lymphoproliferative disorder or an autoantibody) that consumes C1-inhibitor, a protein found in the blood. Acquired C1INH deficiency is not genetic and typically occurs in older individuals.

Allergic Angioedema

The most common form of angioedema, swelling may occur in response to an outside trigger such as cold, heat, bug bite, medicine or food. Sometimes allergic angioedema occurs without a clear trigger or allergen exposure. Swelling is often seen in the face and lips, and urticaria  (hives) may also be present. Treatment for allergic angioedema includes antihistamines, corticosteroids and/or epinephrine, depending on the severity of symptoms.

Hereditary Angioedema (HAE) due to C1INH deficiency

Hereditary angioedema is caused by C1INH deficiency due to a genetic mutation. This mutation can be passed from parent to child such that it typically runs in families, though nearly 25 percent of cases are sporadic (no family history). Symptoms generally appear early in life and become more severe after puberty. Symptoms may be spontaneous or triggered by physical trauma, emotional stress, infection, and other causes. Swelling can occur in the hands, feet, abdomen, throat and other organs. If swelling occurs in the airway it can be fatal. Swelling in the abdomen can be painful and lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Since HAE does not respond to regular corticosteroids and antihistamines, HAE-specific medications are necessary to effectively treat or prevent swelling attacks.

Hereditary Angioedema with Normal C1-Inhibitor

This form of angioedema is poorly understood, but clinically appears similar to HAE due to C1INH deficiency. This type is more commonly found in women than men, and is often exacerbated by pregnancy and/or the use of estrogen-containing medications. Usually affects the face, lips, mouth and airway. Intestinal involvement is less common compared to other forms of HAE. This type of angioedema does not respond to corticosteroids or antihistamines.

Idiopathic Angioedema

Used to describe swelling that persists for 6 weeks or with no known or identifiable cause. Idiopathic angioedema can be caused by histamine release or excessive bradykinin production (though the histamine form is much more common). Urticaria (hives) may or may not be present.

Angioedema Treatment

Our experts develop personalized treatment plans for individuals with all types of angioedema.

This includes:

  • Comprehensive diagnostic testing as indicated
  • Tailored medication plan
  • Recommended lifestyle modifications

Schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today.

Contact Us

Call 800-926-8273

Meet Our Angioedema Specialists

Clinic Location

8899 University Center Lane
La Jolla - Driving Directions

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