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Hives, causes, symptoms and treatments

Hives (Utricaria)

Hives are one kind of skin reaction that results in red or white welts which are itchy. The welts in this case can vary in appearance and size. They may disappear after some time when the life of the reaction is over. In case of chronic hives, the welts may stay for more than six weeks. They may also reappear after several months or years. Even though this is not a life-threatening disease, it can be very uncomfortable and may interfere with your daily activities and sleep.

The cause of the problem is not clear and it may be a sign of some other underlying health issues including lupus and a thyroid disease. There are different treatments available to offer relief from the symptoms. Antihistamine and anti-itch medicines are used in case of chronic hives.

Symptoms

The following are the main signs and symptoms of hives-

  • You will find red and white welts. They generally show up on the face, arms, legs and trunk.
  • Welts that appear can change shape and are different in sizes. They may appear and fade when the reaction time is over.
  • You may suffer from severe itching.
  • Burning and swelling with pain are common in this case. Such burning and swelling are found inside the throat, jigs, lips, around the eyes, hands, genitals and feet.
  • If exposed to triggers like heat, stress or exercise, the signs and symptoms often flare-up.
  • The symptoms may re-occur frequently or and predictably.

Causes

The cause of the welts that show up in case of hives are often seen when body cells release histamine and similar chemicals to the bloodstream. Doctors are not able to find out why the skin reaction happens and why it stays for such a long term. However the skin reactions are generally triggered by-

  • Pain medications
  • Insects or parasites
  • Infection
  • Scratching
  • Heat or cold
  • Stress
  • Sunlight
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol, food or food additives
  • Pressure on the skin, as from a tight waistband

Risk factors

The most important risk factors that increase the risk of hives are-

  • Being a young adult
  • Being a female. Women are more affected by hives.

Complications

There are several complications that may arise due to hives. They include

Difficulty in breathing

If swelling happens in your throat or mouth, breathing may become difficult. If that happens, you should seek immediate emergency medical care. Check out your tongue and throat for swelling and if you find any swelling, immediately consult your doctor.

Serious allergic reaction

Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock may happen due to hives. It is a serious allergic reaction that involves your lungs and heart. As the bronchial tubes narrow, you may find it very difficult to breathe. In that case the blood pressure may drop and you feel dizzy. You may pass out and even can die. Such a shock happens fast and so you should immediately seek medical help and emergency care if you find out such an allergic reaction is happening.

Immune system problems

People who suffer from hives have a higher risk of catching some other immune system problems such as

  • Thyroid disease
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Celiac disease
  • Type 1 diabetes

Before you go to the doctor, prepare yourself by finding out the signs and symptoms and the answer to the questions that your doctor may ask you.

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