and related conditions
Urticaria is a troublesome and itchy disorder that can really affect the quality of life of its sufferers. It can be short lived but also "chronic" and persist for many years. Over the years Dr Tim has treated many patients with this condition and attending several educational meetings updating his knowledge about this condition.
Urticaria is a condition that affects both adults and children. It usually starts with really itchy red lumpy patches and weals that may look like nettle rash. A weal is a swelling of the surface skin. The wheals can occur anywhere in the skin and usually disappear over 24hrs and then reappear in another part of the skin.
The raised red bumps in the skin are caused by the release of chemicals such as histamine from specialized cells in the skin called mast cells and basophils. The release of these chemicals causes small blood vessels in the skin to leak.
The weals can be a few millimetres or in somecases several centimetres in diameter. They may appear coloured white or red and are often surrounded by a red flare, and usually extremely itchy.
Each weal may last a few minutes or several hours, and may change shape. Weals may be round, or form rings, a map-like pattern or giant patches.
The surface weals may be accompanied by deeper swelling of eyelids, lips, hands and elsewhere.
The deeper swelling is called angioedema. Angioedema may occur with or without urticaria.
Most cases of urticaria are NOT due to allergy. Histamine and other vasoactive chemicals can be released into the skin for many reasons. In these cases urticaria can occur the first time that a person is exposed to the material.
There are a number of exciting new treatments under development for urticaria.