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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Angioedema (facial swelling)

Pupuhi ā-kanohi

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.

Angioedema is not usually dangerous unless the swelling makes it difficult to breathe.

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

Causes of angioedema

Sometimes, angioedema happens because of allergies to food, latex, medications or insect bites or autoimmune causes. Sometimes, the exact cause cannot 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) such as ibuprofen, and a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure called ACE inhibitors (for example, cilazapril and enalapril).

Treating angioedema

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

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


Page reference: 48932

Review key: HIALL-38559