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Emergency: requires immediate attention
Angioedema in Child
See also in: Cellulitis DDx,External and Internal Eye,Oral Mucosal Lesion
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed
Emergency: requires immediate attention

Angioedema in Child

See also in: Cellulitis DDx,External and Internal Eye,Oral Mucosal Lesion
Contributors: Nkem Ugonabo MD, MPH, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Angioedema (also called angioneurotic edema) is a variant of urticaria. While urticarial wheals typically affect the superficial dermis, the swelling in angioedema occurs at a deeper level, usually within the dermis and subcutaneous or submucosal tissue. Less commonly, the gastrointestinal tract can be involved. The edema results from increased vascular permeability leading to extravasation of fluid into the interstitium.

Angioedema can be caused by medications, foods, or be idiopathic. Drug-induced angioedema can be associated with urticaria, but it can occur alone with deeper tissue swelling being the only manifestation. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, widely used antihypertensive medications, are a common cause, with angioedema occurring even a year after therapy was initiated. Americans of African descent have 4-5 times greater incidence of ACE inhibitor-induced angioedema than Americans of Northern European descent. ACE inhibitor-induced angioedema often involves the upper airways and can produce a life-threatening risk of respiratory compromise. Other risk factors include female sex, atopy, and cigarette smoking. Other implicated medications include aspirin and other NSAIDs, antibiotics, radiocontrast agents, fibrinolytic agents, and estrogens, including oral contraceptives.

Angioedema as seen in the heritable angioedema syndrome is not responsive to standard antihistamine therapy and usually will not have associated urticaria. Familial forms begin in adolescence; they have autosomal dominant inheritance and are related to disorders of complement regulation. Episodes of angioedema are often precipitated by surgery or accidents.

Acquired C1 esterase inhibitor deficiency also presents with angioedema. It is typically the result of a lymphoproliferative disorder (type 1) or autoimmune disease (type 2). It may result from the formation of autoantibodies against C1 esterase inhibitor or persistent low-level activation of C1q by anti-idiotypic antibodies in patients with B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.

Tick bites from some Amblyomma and Ixodes (and possibly Haemaphysalis) species have been associated with the subsequent development of allergies to mammalian meat (eg, beef, pork) in a small number of patients (see alpha-gal syndrome). It is thought that the allergy is mediated by induced immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to alpha-gal (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose), a mammalian oligosaccharide. Individuals with elevated IgE titers to alpha-gal have experienced urticaria, angioedema, and anaphylaxis symptoms either immediately or 3-6 hours (delayed onset) after ingesting mammalian meat. Exactly how the tick bite leads to development of this allergy is unclear.

Idiopathic angioedema is 3 or more episodes of recurrent angioedema with no apparent cause after comprehensive medical evaluation.


T78.3XXA – Angioneurotic edema, initial encounter

41291007 – Angioedema

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Contact dermatitis (Allergic contact dermatitis or Irritant contact dermatitis)
  • Cellulitis or Erysipelas – In contrast to angioedema, skin affected by cellulitis will typically be sharply demarcated, more erythematous, and painful. In addition, rash is often accompanied by fever.
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Pasteurella multocida infection
  • Vibrio vulnificus infection
  • Lymphedema
  • Systemic causes of peripheral edema (see Congestive heart failure, Nephrotic syndrome)
  • Eosinophilic cellulitis (Wells syndrome)
  • Serum sickness / Serum sickness-like reaction
  • Pressure urticaria is usually localized, and history often reveals local pressure before the lesion appeared.

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:10/31/2019
Last Updated:03/29/2022
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Emergency: requires immediate attention
Patient Information for Angioedema in Child
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Emergency: requires immediate attention
Angioedema in Child
See also in: Cellulitis DDx,External and Internal Eye,Oral Mucosal Lesion
A medical illustration showing key findings of Angioedema : Facial edema, Eyelid edema, Eyelids, Lips, Skin warm to touch, Tongue edema, Uvula edema, Lip swelling
Clinical image of Angioedema - imageId=3427633. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Edema of the hand and fingers.'
Edema of the hand and fingers.
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.