Hives, also known as urticaria, is a common inflammatory condition in North Richland Hills that can present as pink to red whelps anywhere on the skin. Symptoms include inflammation, itching, and swelling of the skin. People may also experience swelling around the eyes or swelling of the lips. In rare severe cases, some patients may experience difficulty breathing due to swelling of the throat and airway. As with most inflammatory conditions, urticaria is due to an over-activation of the immune system. This can be either due to an allergic reaction which stimulates the immune response or an intrinsic problem with a gradual onset.
Hives are broadly categorized as either “acute urticaria” or “chronic urticaria” depending on how long the symptoms persist. Acute urticaria is hives that resolves in less than six weeks and is typically due to an allergic reaction. Multiple allergic triggers have been implicated in hives, including certain foods (commonly shellfish & nuts), medications, infections, and other environmental factors. Chronic urticaria is hives that continue to persist after six weeks. The cause of chronic hives is often very difficult to obtain and is usually idiopathic (unknown). Recent studies suggest that chronic urticaria may be an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and remains over-activated. The underlying cause is unknown. Chronic urticaria can be frustrating and debilitating due to persistent hives that continue to come and go.
There are multiple potential causes for hives and can often be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause. Some common and rare environmental factors that can cause recurrent hives include: certain medication and foods, heat, cold, pressure, sunlight, exercise, and even water!
Treatment and management of urticaria is often dependent upon the underlying cause. Acute urticaria can often be treated with oral antihistamines and removal of potential allergens. Systemic corticosteroids such as prednisone or a Kenalog injection may be used for severe outbreaks. Topical corticosteroid creams and moisturizers with menthol often help reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. Patients are also encouraged to keep a diary of potential allergens or triggers that can cause a flare of their skin.
Management of chronic urticaria can often be challenging with limited effectiveness. Despite extensive clinical workup and lab-work, an underlying cause may be difficult to obtain. Patients that don’t respond to topical therapy and oral antihistamines may need systemic immunosuppressant therapy to help calm the over-active immune response that may be responsible for their hives.
Depending on your skin type and clinical symptoms, our physician and help provide a treatment plan that’s appropriate for you.