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Urticaria, often referred to as hives, is a common skin condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. It's characterized by the sudden appearance of red, raised, and itchy welts on the skin. These welts, known as wheals, can vary in size and shape and often come and go within a few hours. Urticaria can be acute (lasting less than 6 weeks) or chronic (lasting more than 6 weeks).
The hallmark symptom of urticaria is the appearance of itchy welts on the skin. These welts can appear anywhere on the body and may change in size or shape rapidly. They often have a pale center and a red border. In some cases, they may merge to form larger areas of raised, swollen skin. Along with itching, individuals with urticaria may experience a burning or stinging sensation. In severe cases, urticaria can be associated with swelling of the lips, eyelids, or tongue, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
Urticaria can have various triggers, making it challenging to pinpoint a single cause. Common causes and triggers include: allergies to foods, medications, or insect stings, infections, such as a viral or bacterial infection, stress or emotional factors, physical factors like heat, cold, pressure, or sweating, autoimmune disorders, and other unknown causes.
Diagnosing urticaria often involves a detailed medical history and a physical examination. Your dermatologist may ask about recent exposures to potential triggers. In some cases, allergy tests or blood tests may be necessary to identify underlying causes. If you have chronic urticaria, your doctor may recommend further tests to rule out underlying health conditions.
Your dermatologist may prescribe antihistamines to relieve itching and reduce the frequency and severity of urticaria outbreaks. For more severe cases, corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications may be prescribed.
Includes but not limited to:
Oral antihistamines (Cetirizine, Fexofenadine, Hydroxyzine)
Topical steroids (Triamcinolone, Hydrocortisone)
Oral corticosteroids (Prednisone, Methylprednisolone) in severe cases
Apply a cool compress to the affected areas to alleviate itching and reduce swelling. Avoid hot showers or baths, and opt for lukewarm water. Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing to minimize irritation. Keep a diary to identify and avoid potential triggers. Over-the-counter antihistamines can provide temporary relief.
If you have chronic urticaria, working closely with your dermatologist is essential for managing the condition. Your doctor may adjust your medications, recommend lifestyle changes, and monitor your progress. Keeping a diary of your symptoms can help identify patterns and triggers over time.
Preventing urticaria can be challenging, especially when the cause is unknown or related to underlying health conditions. However, you can reduce the risk of acute urticaria by identifying and avoiding known triggers, such as allergens or stressors. If you have chronic urticaria, ongoing management is key to minimizing flare-ups and improving your quality of life.
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Urticaria can have various causes, including allergies, infections, stress, and physical factors. Identifying triggers may require keeping a diary of your symptoms and activities to spot patterns. Allergy tests and discussions with your dermatologist can also help pinpoint specific triggers.
Urticaria is not contagious. It's a skin reaction to internal or external factors and cannot be spread to others through physical contact or any other means.
Acute urticaria episodes often resolve within a few hours to a few days. Chronic urticaria, on the other hand, can last for several weeks or even months. Treatment can help manage symptoms and reduce the duration of episodes.
In most cases, urticaria does not lead to long-term complications. However, if you experience severe swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat (angioedema) or if your urticaria is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention, as it can be life-threatening.
For mild cases of urticaria, you may find relief with over-the-counter antihistamines, lifestyle changes, and home remedies like cool compresses. However, chronic or severe urticaria often requires prescription medications, and it's essential to work closely with a dermatologist to determine the most effective treatment plan for your specific case.