Skin Conditions – Allergic Urticaria (Hives)

Urticaria is an outbreak of red wheals resembling mosquito bites, sometimes coalescing to form larger red and raised patches. Other than being itchy, they can have a burning sensation. If it affects the eyes and lips, it is called angioedema. The majority of hives have no known cause, but some may be due to allergies (food/medication/dust), changes in temperature, pressure, exercise and stress. Treatment would include a course of antihistamines, and in severe cases, oral steroids.

What is Urticaria?

Urticaria, known as hives, is an outbreak of red bumps or plaques (wheals) resembling a rash. Hives are triggered by allergic reactions although sometimes it can be caused by other known food and environmental triggers.

As the allergic reaction occurs, the body releases histamine, a protein that acts as the body’s defense against possible triggers or allergens. While they seem to pose no threat, the immune system overreacts and does everything possible – cough, sneeze and itch – causing fluid to leak out of small blood vessels in the skin and resulting in hives.

Types of Urticaria

Angioedema is similar to hives but it occurs under the skin and breaks out around the eyes, lips and less so on the hands, feet and genitals. While angioedema lasts longer than hives, both should eventually disappear within a day.

Acute urticaria lasts for six weeks or less and usually has an identifiable cause, whereas chronic urticaria or angioedema lasts much longer and usually have no known causes or indicate something more serious like cancer or thyroid disease.

Physical urticaria, like its name suggests, is caused by something directly affecting the skin like heat or sweat. Dermatographism is a common form of physical urticaria also known as skin writing, as patients develop a localized hive-like reaction simply after lightly rubbing or scratching their skin.

How is Urticaria Diagnosed?

To diagnose which type of urticaria or angioedema you fall under, your skin doctor will conduct a physical examination, check your medical history, and perhaps conduct a series of allergy tests to figure out what could have triggered the urticaria. In a few cases, they may also do a skin biopsy, which involves removing a small part of the affected skin, and examining it under a microscope.

Can Urticaria be Treated?

Antihistamines, used to prohibit the production of histamines, are normally prescribed to provide symptomatic relief such as itching. Patients are also advised to identify and avoid any triggering or aggravating factors, such as scratchy clothes, heat, certain foods and medications.

Other medicines prescribed for hives include oral cortisones (short-term), anti-inflammatory medicines and in severe cases, emergency injection of adrenaline (in the event of airway swelling).

For more information regarding hives treatment, contact us at 6235 1200 or fill up the enquiry form below – we’ll get back to you shortly.

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