Urticaria- an itching, burning and sometimes painful outbreak of the skin; more commonly known as hives. These irritating, reddened wheals with flattened centers may appear anywhere on the body, including inside the ears, nose, and mouth. A common case of urticaria is usually not a serious threat to your health. Severe cases could cause inflammation to the throat and impair breathing and swallowing; medical assistance should be sought at once. Numerous factors are known or suspected to cause hives. Allergies (including adverse reactions to certain medications) seem to be the most common culprit. Certain health conditions, viruses, 'contact' (pressure or friction), heat, cold, or sunlight, insect bites are also known to induce hives, as well as physical exertion.
10-20 percent us will experience a hive outbreak at least once in their lifetime. Most acute episodes of hives disappear within 24 hours, or up to a few days. It is not uncommon, however, for the condition to last up to 6 - 8 weeks. If your hives last longer than 8 weeks, chances are you will have repeated episodes throughout your life. This article is for you. Here is a series of steps you may need to take to get to the root of this miserable malady. In many cases, no medical explanation will be found; but you will have at least ruled out an arsenal of conditions that AREN'T causing your discomfort.
Make an appointment with an immunologist specializing in allergies. In the meantime, keep a chart or log , writing down everything you eat, as well as every time you get hives, no matter if they seem severe or not. Also pay attention to the fabrics you wear; the soaps, fragrances and detergents you use. Keep notes of animals you come in contact with, moldy areas you are exposed to (such as basements or garages), all outdoor activities, etc. The immunologist will more than likely perform a series of skin prick tests to determine if you have an allergic reaction to environmental / air borne substances. Another test will be done to check for food allergies. In all, you should have at least 140 tests done. The skin prick barely scratches the skin's surface with a trace amount of the substance commonly known to cause allergic reactions. A small, raised reddened welt will appear indicating a reaction to that individual test. If none of the pricked areas turn red or swell, allergies can be ruled out as a factor causing your urticaria. You may be prescribed antihistamines or prednisone which may alleviate your present discomfort, but will NOT treat the underlying CAUSE of your hives. Once allergies are ruled out, the doctor will also order a series of blood tests. These will check for other conditions associated with hives including, but not limited to: proper liver function, elevated white blood count, under or over active thyroid, lupis, autoimmune disorders, hepatitis, Trichinosis, lyme disease, herpes. Once processed in a lab, the immunologist will notify you of the results.
If all the above conditions are ruled out, it's time to seek the advice of a dermatologist. This doctor will examine you for various skin afflictions, and may also perform a biopsy of your skin tissue to rule out vascular related conditions. The medical professionals have ruled everything OUT, and you feel healthier than ever! The hives, however, have not given up. And neither should you. There is still HOPE!
The last doctor you need to see is a psychiatrist. Keep an open mind if you are referred to one by your DeRmAToLoGisT!! Psycho analysis is widely recommended, as of late, because high stress and anxiety is (finally) understood and accepted by the medical profession to be a contributing factor to Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria --- Unexplained Hives that last for longer than 8 weeks.