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Angioedema is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Angioedema (AE) is acute, localized swelling of skin, mucosa, and submucosa caused by extravasation of fluid into the affected tissues. It often resolves in hours to days but can be life-threatening if the upper airway is involved.
  • Hereditary AE (HAE) and acquired AE (AAE) are diseases of the complement cascade that result in recurrent episodes of AE of the skin, upper airway, and GI tract.
  • Synonym(s): angioneurotic edema; Quincke edema


  • Predominant age
    • Allergen, medication, or other triggers can affect all ages.
    • HAE: infancy to 2nd decade of life
    • AAE: often patients >40 years
  • Predominant gender: male = female (except type III HAE; affects more women than men)

  • AE occurs in 15% of the population over a lifetime.
  • AE: 0.1–2.2% of patients receiving ACE inhibitors: African Americans have a 4 to 5 times greater risk of ACE inhibitor–induced AE than Caucasians.
  • HAE: 1:10,000 to 50,000 population in the United States

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Idiopathic
  • Medication-induced
    • ACE inhibitors cause 10–25% of AE cases, mostly occurring within the 1st month of use. However, onset may be delayed by years.
    • Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) also can cause AE but more rarely than ACE inhibitors.
  • Allergic triggers
    • Food allergens such as shellfish, nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy
    • Medications such as aspirin, NSAIDs, antibiotics, narcotics, and oral contraceptives
    • Latex, venom
  • Physically induced: cold, heat, pressure, vibration, trauma, emotional stress, ultraviolet light
  • Hereditary or acquired C1 INH deficiency
  • Thyroid autoimmune disease–associated AE
  • Type I hypersensitivity reaction
  • Increase in vascular permeability secondary to IgE-mediated mast cell–stimulated histamine release or from activation of the complement system and an elevation in bradykinin (HAE)
  • HAE attacks are triggered by prolonged mechanical pressure, cold, heat, trauma, emotional stress, menses, illness, and inflammation:
    • Type I HAE, the most common form, caused by decreased production of C1 esterase inhibitor (C1 INH), has autosomal dominant inheritance.
    • Type II HAE has functionally impaired C1 INH and autosomal dominant inheritance.
    • Type III (HAE-FXII) involves mutations in coagulation factor XII gene (occurs more frequently in women, often estrogen-dependent, associated with estrogen administration); also, type III HAE-unknown exists.
  • AAE is a rare condition:
    • Type I is associated with lymphoproliferative diseases or paraneoplastic diseases.
    • Type II is due to autoimmune disorders (anti-C1 INH antibody).
    • Affected patients have circulating antibodies directed either against specific immunoglobulins expressed on B cells (type I) or against C1 INH (type II).
    • AAE typically presents later in life (>40 years), and patients lack family history of AE.

  • HAE types I and II are autosomal dominant, whereas type III is dominant X-linked.
  • HAE occurs in 25% of patients as a result of spontaneous genetic mutations.

Risk Factors

  • Consuming medications and foods that can cause allergic reactions
  • Preexisting diagnosis of HAE or AAE

General Prevention

  • Avoid known triggers.
  • Do not use ACE inhibitors in patients with C1 INH deficiency.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Quincke disease (AE of the uvula)
  • Urticaria

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Angioedema." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116031/all/Angioedema.
Angioedema. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116031/all/Angioedema. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Angioedema. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116031/all/Angioedema
Angioedema [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 25]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116031/all/Angioedema.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Angioedema ID - 116031 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116031/all/Angioedema PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -