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Excellence in Angioedema Care

UC San Diego Health 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 provides:

  • A 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). Bradykinin is a peptide (chemical compound) that causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to a decline in blood pressure.

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 buildup of bradykinin, a chemical compound that causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to a decline in blood pressure..

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

Hereditary angioedema is caused by improper function or a low level of the C1 inhibitor (a protein).

Learn more about HAE and how we treat it at UC San Diego.

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

Appointments and Referrals

  • 858-657-5350

Angioedema Location

La Jolla

Meet Our Angioedema Specialists

U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association

UC San Diego and the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association have partnered to create a comprehensive angioedema center.

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