Angioedema vs Anaphylaxis: Know the Differences

Angioedema vs Anaphylaxis

Difference between Angioedema vs Anaphylaxis: Angioedema and Anaphylaxis are both allergic reactions, but they differ in severity and scope. Angioedema involves localised swelling in deeper layers of the skin or mucous membranes, often triggered by allergens or other factors such as stress or infections. Whereas Anaphylaxis is a severe, systemic allergic reaction that affects the entire body, potentially leading to life-threatening symptoms like difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and shock. While treatments for both may include antihistamines and corticosteroids, Anaphylaxis requires immediate administration of epinephrine and emergency medical attention due to its potential for rapid progression and severe outcomes.

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Difference between Angioedema and Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis refe­rs to a serious all-over body allergic re­sponse that needs imme­diate attention and the use­ of epinephrine without de­lay. On the other hand, Angioede­ma is a type of swelling that occurs in certain are­as. It's caused by allergens or various conditions. The table below provides the differences between Angioedema and Anaphylaxis.

Feature

Angioedema

Anaphylaxis

Definition

Localised swelling in deeper skin layers

Severe, systemic allergic reaction

Causes

Allergic reactions, stress, infections

Allergens (e.g., food, medications), non-allergic triggers

Symptoms

Rapid swelling, itching, burning

Difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, hives, nausea

Severity

Typically localised, rarely life-threatening

Potentially life-threatening, affects entire body

Treatment

Antihistamines, corticosteroids, epinephrine (in severe cases)

Epinephrine, antihistamines, corticosteroids, emergency medical care

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What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is a disorder marked by sudden swelling of the mucous membranes and deeper layers of the skin. Usually, this swelling affects the hands, feet, face, lips, tongue, throat, and genitalia. Allergies to specific foods, drugs, insect stings, or environmental stimuli frequently cause it. Non-allergic causes of Angioedema include stress, infections, and specific medical disorders. Antihistamines, corticosteroids, and in extreme situations, adrenaline, especially if it's linked to a severe allergic reaction, may be used as treatments.

Causes of Angioedema

  • Allergy Reactions: Food allergies (like peanuts and shellfish), drug allergies (like penicillin), insect stings, or environmental allergies (like pollen) can all cause Angioedema.
  • Non-Allergic Reactions: Infections, stress, and exposure to extremely high or low temperatures can all cause non-allergic reactions.
  • Hereditary Angioedema (HAE): Hereditary Angioedema is a condition in which some people are genetically predisposed to Angioedema. Recurrent episodes of swelling are the result of a lack or malfunction of specific proteins in the blood.
  • Acquired Angioedema: This kind of Angioedema is not inherited; rather, it develops later in life as a result of several circumstances, including autoimmune diseases, certain drugs, or underlying illnesses such as leukaemia or lymphoma.
  • Idiopathic Angioedema: This type of Angioedema is caused by an unknown factor in certain circumstances.

Symptoms of Angioedema

  • Swelling: Sudden swelling, generally in the hands, feet, tongue, throat, and face (especially the lips and eyes).
  • Pain or Discomfort: In the affected area, swelling may be accompanied by burning, itching, or discomfort.
  • Change in Appearance: Swelling can cause enlargement or distortion, changing the affected body part's appearance.
  • Breathing or Swallowing Difficulties: If swelling develops in the tongue or throat, it may cause trouble breathing or swallowing. This is a medical emergency that has to be treated right once.
  • Abdominal Symptoms: In certain instances, Angioedema may cause swelling in the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen.
  • Duration: Angioedema-related swelling usually goes away in a few days, though it occasionally comes again.

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What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction affecting the entire body. It happens when the immune system overreacts to an allergen, causing the production of several substances, including histamine, which sets off a series of symptoms that can be dangerously quick. Breathing difficulties, a dip in blood pressure, an irregular pulse, hives or rash, facial, lip, or neck swelling, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, and a sense of impending doom are some examples of these symptoms. Adrenaline, or epinephrine, must be administered right away in cases of Anaphylaxis to counteract the allergic reaction and stop future consequences. Anaphylaxis can cause shock, unconsciousness, and even death if it is not addressed.

Causes of Anaphylaxis

  • Foods: Several common food allergies that can result in Anaphylaxis include peanuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, and tree nuts (such as almonds and walnuts).
  • Medication: Several pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics like penicillin and others, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and contrast dyes used in radiology, can cause Anaphylaxis in those who are sensitive to them.
  • Insect Stings: People who are allergic to stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, fire ants, and yellow jackets may experience Anaphylaxis due to their venom.
  • Latex: Products including gloves, balloons, condoms, and some medical equipment can contain latex, which can cause Anaphylaxis in certain people.
  • Other Allergens: Less often occurring causes of Anaphylaxis include latex, specific foods, and specific drugs. 

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • Skin: Redness, swelling, itching, hives (raised, itchy welts), commonly affecting the lips, tongue, neck, and face.
  • Respiratory System: Tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or a sense of constriction in the throat brought on by enlargement of the airways.
  • Cardiovascular System: Fast heartbeat (tachycardia), low blood pressure (hypotension), lightheadedness or fainting because of insufficient blood supply to essential organs.
  • Mental State: Perplexity, anxiety, dizziness, or a sense of approaching disaster.

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Similarities between Angioedema and Anaphylaxis

  • Allergic Nature: Although the precise triggers can differ, both illnesses are brought on by the immune system's reaction to allergens.
  • Histamine Involvement: The release of histamine is a major factor in Angioedema and Anaphylaxis, leading to the symptoms that are typical of both conditions, including swelling, itching, and redness.
  • Swelling: Although the degree and intensity of swelling may vary, both Angioedema and Anaphylaxis entail swelling. Anaphylaxis can cause widespread swelling that affects the face, lips, tongue, throat, and extremities, whereas oedema usually manifests as localised swelling in deeper layers of the skin and mucous membranes. 
  • Possibility of Airway Compromise: In extreme situations, Angioedema and Anaphylaxis can both result in swelling of the tongue or throat, which can impede breathing or cause trouble swallowing. This can pose a life-threatening situation and call for rapid medical attention.

In conclusion, Anaphylaxis is a more severe and potentially fatal systemic reaction, whereas Angioedema usually results in localised swelling without the systemic symptoms of Anaphylaxis. Both Angioedema and Anaphylaxis entail swelling.

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FAQ's

What is Angioedema?

Angioedema is a disorder marked by sudden swelling of the mucous membranes and deeper layers of the skin. Usually, it affects the hands, feet, face, lips, tongue, throat, or genitalia.

What causes Angioedema?

Allergies to specific foods, drugs, insect stings, or environmental stimulants can result in Angioedema. Non-allergic factors including stress, infections, or specific medical conditions can also cause it to flare up.

What are the symptoms of Angioedema?

Angioedema is characterised by sudden swelling that is frequently accompanied by pain, burning, or itching. Usually, it affects the hands, feet, genitalia, lips, mouth, and face.

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that involves the entire body and can be fatal. Histamine and other substances are released systemically, causing symptoms like hypotension, breathing difficulties, and shock.

What causes Anaphylaxis?

Allergens such as foods (such as nuts, and shellfish), drugs (like penicillin), insect stings (such as bee venom), or latex can cause Anaphylaxis. Non-allergic causes such as exercise-induced Anaphylaxis or idiopathic Anaphylaxis (unknown cause) can also cause it to occur.

What are the symptoms of Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis symptoms include trouble breathing, wheezing, fast heartbeat, rash or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or neck, nausea, vomiting, vomiting fits, and a sense of imminent death.