Angioedema (overview) T78.3

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

Co-Autor: Hadrian Tran

All authors of this article

Last updated on: 28.06.2022

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AE; Angioedema; Angioneurotic edema; Bannister's disease; Circumscribed skin edema; Edema angioneurotic; giant urticaria Milton; Idiopathic Quincke's edema; Oedema cutis circumscriptum acutum; Quincke's edema; Quincke's edema idiopathic; Quincke's edema sporadic; Skin edema acute circumscribed; Skin edema circumscribed; sporadic Quincke's edema; urtica mollis; Urticaria gigantea; Urticaria profunda

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Donati 1586; Milton 1876; Quincke 1882; Dinkelacker 1882; Osler 1888;

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Polyätiologic, acute, single or irregular recurrent, 1-7 day persistent, hereditary or acquired, painful or burning, swelling (edema) of the cutis/subcutis and/or the mucosa/submucosa. Life threatening swellings of the pharynx and/or the larynx can be fatal. Facial swellings are particularly conspicuous as they lead to considerable disfigurement (see also angioedema of the head and neck region).

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Based on different pathomechanisms, angioedema is basically divided into:

  • Histamine-mediated (IgE- or non-IgE-mediated) angioedema.
  • kinin-mediated angioedema
  • Other angioedema (non-allergic angioedema).

In kinin-mediated angioedema (HAE, AAE, and RAE), an elevated bradykinin plasma level is considered the trigger. While HAE and AAE involve an impaired increased rate of bradykinin formation, RAE patients involve a decreased rate of bradykinin degradation.

  • Histamine-mediated ang ioedema (T78.3):
  • Kinin-mediated angioedema:
    • Hereditary ang ioedema (D84.1)
      • Type I (common form): Mutation in the SERPING1 gene (One normal and one null allele of the structural gene are present. Autosomal dominant inheritance. Phenotype 1: Most common form (85% of cases). Synthesis of C1 esterase inhibitor is decreased, its turnover is increased.
      • Type II (variant form): (mutation in the SERPING1 gene). Phenotype 2: Occurs in approximately 15% of cases. Functionally inactive C1-INH in normal concentration in plasma; functionally active C1-INH in decreased concentration. Phenotype 3: Functionally inactive C1-INH in increased concentration in plasma; functionally active C1-INH in decreased concentration.
      • Type III: Normal C1-INH concentration and function; so far described only in women (synonym: estrogen-dependent hereditary angioedema).
    • Acquired ang ioedema (AAE):
      • Type I (acquired angioedema, AAE I): Partially associated with lymphoproliferative malignancies, e.g., malignant lymphoma.
      • Type II (AAE II): as AAE I; detectable antibodies against C1-INH.
    • Renin-aldosterone system blocker-induced angioedema (RAE) (by far the most common form of angioedema; e.g. caused by ACE inhibitors, also by AT II receptor antagonists, osteoporosis drugs e.g. strontium ranelate).
  • Other mechanisms:

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In acquired angioedema, type I reactions or intolerance reactions to food, food additives, various drugs (especially anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal) and additive physical stimuli are often identified as triggering factors. Often, however, the etiology remains unclear. Focus events and psychovegetative disorders are also discussed.

In principle, the following pathogenetic mechanisms lead to the clinical picture of angioedema:

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Allergic angioedema: incidence of severe anaphylaxis: 1-3:10,000 inhabitants per year, of which almost 50% with angioedema

Urticaria-associated angioedema: prevalence of chronic recurrent urticaria: 1-5% , of which >50% with angioedema

Idiopathic angioedema: No exact numbers

ACE inhibitor-induced angioedema: prevalence: 0.2-0.7% of treated patients. People with darker skin colour have a 3-fold increased risk.Age of manifestation: I.d.R. from 50 years of age.

Hereditary angioedema with C1-INH deficiency:

  • Incidence: Approximately 1.5:100,000 inhabitants per year.
  • Prevalence: 1:50,000 inhabitants
  • Age at first manifestation frequently ≤10 years of age.
  • Sex: ♂ = ♀

Hereditary angioedema without C1-INH deficiency: Very rare. Almost always affects the female sex.

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Facial area, mostly asymmetrical, especially on eyelids, lips, mucous membranes of the head (pharynx). Also occurring in the genital area (predilection sites are areas with soft connective tissue).

Clinical features
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Diffuse, pale, rather burning or painful (usually not itchy), doughy, edematous swelling of the skin and mucous membrane, trunk-shaped bulging lips, swollen eyes, possibly sudden glottis edema.

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Edema of subcutaneous connective and fatty tissue, perivascular lymphocytic infiltrate.

Differential diagnosis
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Allergic contact dermatitis: epidermal component with desquamation possibly oozing

Ascher syndrome (rare): After the age of 5, repeated occurrence of painless swelling of the upper eyelid and upper lip, blepharochalasis due to prolapsed orbital fat and lacrimal gland tissue. Double lip; usually the upper lip is affected, rarely the lower lip. The combination of symptoms consolidates the diagnosis.

Gleich syndrome (rare): severe angioedema, urticaria, high peripheral (primary) eosinophilia (up to > 50,000/ul).

Erysipelas: painfulness, fever, leukocytosis , painful lymphadenopathy.

Zoster: segmental arrangement; vesicles, painfulness.

Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (persistent swelling, rough consistency, possibly facial nerve palsy).

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S.u. the individual clinical forms of angioedema.

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Further information can be found on the website of the German Society for Angioedema e.V.

Practical recommendations for angioedema n. Bork (guideline hereditary angioedema)

  • every patient with HAE due to C1-INH deficiency should be provided with a multilingual emergency card (available from Behring GmbH, Philipp-Reis-Straße 2, 65795 Hattersheim, Germany)
  • All patients should keep C1-INH concentrate or Icatibant for two doses in stock at home as an emergency medication, and carry it with them when travelling. Patient and sick leave times should be known at the nearest hospital.
  • Teachers of affected school children should be informed that acute attacks may occur.
  • Before dental surgery, tooth extraction and other operations in the mouth and throat area, patients with HAE due to C1-I NH deficiency should receive 500-1000 U C1-I NH concentrate 1 hour before the operation. The nanofiltered C1-I NH concentrate has been approved for short-term prophylaxis since June 2011.

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  1. Anliker MD et al (2003) Acute urticaria and angioedema due to ehrlichiosis. Dermatology 207: 417-418
  2. Bas M et al (2007) Nonallergic angiooedema: role of bradykinin. Allergy 62: 842-856
  3. Bork K et al (2012) Hereditary angioedema due to C1 inhibitor deficiency. Allergo J 21: 109-118
  4. Bouillet L et al (2003) Angioedema and oral contraception. Dermatology 206: 106-109
  5. Pirker C et al (2003) Angioedema and dysphagia caused by contact allergy to inhaled budesonide. Contact dermatitis 49: 77-79
  6. Quincke HI (1882) On acute circumscribed skin edema. Booklets prakt Dermatol (Hamburg) 1: 129-131
  7. Zuberbier t (2013) Allergology State of the Art. Compendium Dermatology 9: 19-22


Please ask your physician for a reliable diagnosis. This website is only meant as a reference.


Last updated on: 28.06.2022