Hereditary angioedema – Symptoms and management options

Hereditary angioedema – Symptoms and management options

Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is a rare genetic condition that can affect different parts of the body and cause swelling under the skin, including the lining of the gut and the lungs. This condition is hereditary, and there is no definitive cure for it. However, there are treatment methods that help keep the symptoms at bay. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for and treatment options.

Signs and symptoms
Before the onset of the condition, some signs and symptoms can be noticed and are clearly visible. It usually begins with a tingling sensation in the affected body part and is often accompanied by non-itchy rashes. The affected area then swells, and if left untreated, the swelling may increase on the first day and gradually subside over the next two to three days. It is also possible that the swelling starts in one location and then migrates to another location.

Skin-related symptoms
When swelling on the skin occurs, it is called subcutaneous swelling, which usually affects the hands, feet, face, and genitals. This type of swelling is also usually accompanied by redness. Unlike other types of swelling, this type does not cause itching. Often, this type of symptom is misdiagnosed as an allergic reaction, and the wrong treatment options are administered, which do not work. It is also important to note that the swelling can worsen and cause temporary disfigurement. When this happens on feet or hands, it can become difficult to walk or impact the dexterity of the hands.

Stomach symptoms
Abdominal swelling is a common symptom of a HEA attack, which can cause mild to severe pain depending on the intensity of the swelling. It can also result in vomiting and diarrhea along with swelling, so it is important to be aware of the signs. If left untreated, the pain can last up to two days and cause severe discomfort. Similar to other skin symptoms, abdominal swelling can also be misdiagnosed with other conditions. Therefore, it is recommended that all the necessary checkups be performed to rule out any rare diseases.

Throat symptoms
Swelling in the throat is also known as laryngeal attack. Although it is less common than stomach and skin attacks, it is the most serious attack of HEA. This symptom of HEA can be severe because the swelling can lead to suffocation by obstructing the windpipe. It is recommended not to wait for the swelling to subside and instead seek immediate medical help from a professional. It is always best to inform family and friends about the urgency of these attacks and keep an emergency protocol book ready for them to follow in such cases.

Treatment and management
As mentioned earlier, this condition does not have a definite cure. However, there are management techniques to lower the impact of the symptoms. Depending on the symptoms and severity of the condition and the symptoms, doctors usually prescribe a specific treatment plan that works best for the affected person. Therefore, carefully review the treatment plan recommended by the doctor. In some cases, it may be necessary to get additional oxygen and intravenous fluids to alleviate the severity of the symptoms.

The key to managing an attack is to be well informed and aware of the condition and be prepared with coping strategies. Some of the tips include:

  • Always have an emergency binder available for reference at home and at work. This helps to ensure that those around are informed about what to do in case of an emergency. The binder should contain informative details such as the name of the condition, symptoms, things to do, the name and contact of the doctor, and other emergency treatment options that can be taken at the time of the attack. This binder can be accessed by anyone close to the affected person in case of emergencies.
  • It is also important to ensure that caregivers, family, and friends are aware of this condition. This helps prevent panic during an episode. Instead, they can refer to the binder to help the individual.
  • If there is any swelling in the throat, it is important to call the emergency services to avoid any fatal accidents.
  • Joining a support group of people living with HAE can also help cope with the condition in a healthy manner.


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