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Urticaria - What it is

​Urticaria (also known as hives) is a common skin condition that can affect up to 20% of people (one in five people) at some point in their lives. It can cause itchy pink swellings or bumps that can appear anywhere on the body and sometimes be accompanied by swelling of the eyelids or the lips. 

These skin lesions may change in size, fade, or reappear. Individual skin lesions typically resolved within 24 hours without a trace, although the course of the condition may be longer. 

Daily episodes of urticaria that persist for more than 6 weeks is a condition known as chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU). This condition is neither an allergen nor contagion. Instead, it involves activation of the immune response system.

Who can Urticaria affect? 

It can affect children and adult, both male and female of all ages. 

Types of Urticaria

We can categorise urticaria based on its duration and triggers. Although in some patients, more than 2 types of urticaria can co-exist.

Here are 3 ways we categorise urticaria:

  1. Acute urticaria is defined by spontaneous occurrence of hives or angioedema for 6 weeks or less. The cause of acute urticaria is found in less than 50% of cases. The most common cause of acute urticaria is viral infection (40%), followed by drug reactions (9.2%) and food intolerance (0.9%).
  2. Daily or almost daily episodes of hives or angioedema for more than 6 weeks are known as chronic urticaria. There are generally 2 types of chronic urticaria:
    • Chronic inducible urticaria which can be brought on by a determined stimulus such as skin pressure, cold, heat or exercise, or
    • Chronic spontaneous urticaria where the cause is unknown 

Urticaria - Symptoms

Urticaria - How to prevent?

Urticaria - Causes and Risk Factors

Urticaria - Diagnosis

While there are no special tests to reliably identify the cause of chronic spontaneous urticaria, your doctor may still ask about your medical history and examine you to diagnose the condition. 

Most people with chronic spontaneous may not need any routine allergy tests.

Urticaria - Treatments

Can Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria be cured? 

In about half of the people who has chronic spontaneous urticaria, the rash last for 6 to 12 months, and then gradually disappears.  It can, however, last considerably longer and the course sometimes unpredictable. 

The symptoms of urticaria can be suppressed rather than cure. The goal of treatment is to treat it until it is gone. 

What is the treatment of Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria? 

Urticaria is treated with the following medications:
  1. Antihistamines reduces the itch and rash in most people. If urticaria occurs frequently, your doctor will advise you to take antihistamines regularly
  2. Oral steroids can occasionally be given briefly for severe flares of urticaria
  3. Biological injections can be used for severe chronic spontaneous urticaria. This is only available in specialist clinics
  4. Medications that target the immune systems such as ciclosporin are beneficial for people with severe urticaria that has not responded to the above treatment options
The goal of treatment is to achieve symptom control so that your urticaria does not interfere with your daily activities.

How do I self-care?

Apart from taking antihistamines, the following could ease the itch:

  • Wear loose – fitting, lightweight clothes
  • Work or sleep in a cool environment

Please seek medical attention urgently if you experience hoarseness of voice, breathing or swallowing difficulties associated with swelling of the lips or tongue. 

Urticaria - Preparing for surgery

Urticaria - Post-surgery care

Urticaria - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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