Print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Angioedema (facial swelling)

Angioedema (facial swelling) is swelling caused by blood vessels leaking fluid into deep layers of your skin. It normally happens on your face, lips, and tongue and can happen at the same time as hives. The swelling usually settles down within a week.

What causes it?

Sometimes angioedema happens because of allergies to food, latex, medications, insect bites, or autoimmune causes. Sometimes, the exact cause can't be found.

A food allergy can be considered a cause of angioedema if it happens within an hour of eating a particular food. Allergy testing is sometimes used to confirm a suspected food allergy.

Two groups of medications occasionally cause angioedema. These are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), and a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure called ACE inhibitors (for example, cilazapril and enalapril).

Angioedema isn't usually dangerous, unless the swelling makes it difficult to breathe.


Treatment includes avoiding any known triggers and a short course of antihistamine or steroid tablets.

If you or someone else has angioedema and can't breathe properly, it may be a sign of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment. Follow the instructions for anaphylaxis.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2018. Last updated June 2019.

Page reference: 48932

Review key: HIAOE-22227