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Angioedema is swelling underneath the skin. It’s usually a reaction to a trigger, such as a medication or something you’re allergic to.It isn’t normally serious, but it can be a recurring problem for some people and can very occasionally be life-threatening if it affects breathing.

Treatment can usually help keep the swelling under control.

Symptoms of angioedema

The swelling most often affects the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • area around the eyes
  • lips and tongue
  • genitals

Many people also have a raised, itchy rash called urticaria (hives).

In more serious cases, angioedema can also cause breathing difficulties, tummy (abdominal) pain and dizziness.

Read more about the symptoms of angioedema.

When to get medical advice

See your GP if you have episodes of swelling that affect your skin or lips and you’re not certain of the cause.

You may need to have some tests to determine the cause. Read more about tests for angioedema.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if you, or someone with you, has swelling and:

  • sudden or worsening breathing problems
  • feels faint or dizzy
  • passes out or collapses

These are signs of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you, or the person who’s ill, have been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector for this, use it while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

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