What is urticaria?
Is urticaria common?
Urticaria is very common. Ten to 20% of the population will have at least one episode in their lifetime. The condition usually spontaneously resolves in a few weeks to months. Occasionally, a person will continue to have urticaria for many years.
When hives form around the eyes, lips, or genitals, the tissue may swell excessively. Although frightening in appearance, the swelling usually goes away in less than 24 hours.
What causes urticaria?
Urticaria is caused by the release of histamine from mast cells. Mast cells are a type of cell in your body that lies along the blood vessels in the skin. So many things can cause your body’s mast cells to release histamine that it is often impossible to find out why histamine is being released and hives and/or itching is developing.
In the majority of cases, the cause of urticaria remains unknown. There are no specific tests to determine the cause of urticaria. Routine blood tests are most often of little or no value. If a cause of urticaria is identified, it is usually one of the following: foods, drugs, infections, insect bites, internal disease. Other causes can be pressure, cold, or sunlight.
What is the treatment?
Antihistamines work best if taken on a regular schedule to prevent urticaria from forming. No one antihistamine works best for everyone, so we may need to try more than one or different combinations to find what works best for you.
In severe cases of urticaria, omalizumab is an option.