Chronic urticaria is an inflammatory skin condition that results to formation of wheals and/or angioedema. The skin condition is considered chronic if it lasts more than 6 weeks.
The condition can be instigated by various factors including certain drugs, bacterial infections, autoimmune conditions and physical exposure to certain substances. Any part of the body can be affected, but usually the neck, head, back, chest, legs and arms are involved. The intense itchiness might result to ulceration of the skin and scarring.
What are the potential risk factors?
- Family history
- Bacterial infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- Roundworm infection that affects the stomach
- Certain reactions to drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics and pain medications
- Consumption of alcohol
- Using substances such as certain perfumes, caffeine and detergents
- Food allergies such as shellfish or peanut in rare instances
What are the signs?
The typical indication of chronic urticaria generally include:
- Localized itchiness with swelling
- Skin rashes or wheals associated with redness and intense itchiness
- Skin bordering the affected site appears normal in skin color or reddened
- The wheals might shift in size and shape where it appears spherical and arranged in a ring-like pattern or random form
- Burning sensation with the itchiness
- The individual wheals might vary in size from a few millimeters or centimeters but several wheals covering a wide area can occur in some cases. The wheals might last for several minutes up to a day.
Management of chronic urticaria
The treatment for chronic urticaria is based on the seriousness of the symptoms and generally involves avoidance of the triggers. Remember that the treatment might be specific to the trigger responsible for the symptoms.
The commonly used treatment options include:
- Application of a cool compress on the affected areas
- Topical steroids that include moisturizing creams to soothe the condition
- Systemic steroids
- Immunosuppression therapy if the symptoms are severe. This involves the use of immune modulators or drugs that regulate immunity.
- Stress management for severe or chronic conditions.