Photo by wisely at Shutterstock
Chronic urticaria, also known as chronic hives, is an uncomfortable condition that involves the eruption of hives. These hives may continue to erupt for weeks, months, or indefinitely for no known reason. Many people may begin their quest to determine why they’re breaking out into hives by visiting their Southlake, TX, primary care physician. Often, this physician will refer them to a board certified dermatologist or allergist to evaluate and treat the problem. Although chronic hives are not generally associated with a medical emergency, the possibility does exist that more serious health complications can occur, which is why some patients have prescribed Epipens. Here, we’ll explore this uncomfortable skin condition and how to manage it.
About Chronic Urticaria
Chronic urticaria can be the result of an allergy, but generally, no known allergens are discovered. That’s why many people with the condition opt to meet with their dermatologist rather than an allergist. However, both medical providers can diagnose and manage this condition.
Chronic urticaria results in skin eruptions of red welts–hives. The hives tend to be itchy and cause the skin to be sore. Sufferers often experience intense discomfort even during sleep. Other symptoms of the condition can include:
- Swelling of lips, eyelids, and throat
- Flare ups occur with exercise, heat, and even stress
- Symptoms continue on and off for a period longer than six weeks
Unfortunately, there is not a known cure for chronic urticaria, but it can be managed. Management is important to reduce the discomfort associated with the hives but also to prevent an escalation of symptoms complications.
What Causes Chronic Urticaria?
Medical researchers often cannot pinpoint what causes a person’s chronic urticaria. Most often, they suspect that an overactive immune system is at play. Cells produce histamine that is released into the bloodstream; it’s this action that leads to the eruption of hives. But, unlike allergies when a clear allergen triggers the histamine release, in chronic urticaria, there is no known allergen. Cells may be triggered to release histamine for reasons such as:
- Extreme heat or cold
- Medications (i.e. pain medication)
- Parasites or insects
- Pressure placed on the skin
In many cases, sufferers simply don’t have a clear idea about why their skin erupts into hives. Doctors may encourage them to keep a daily journal and report on their activities just before skin eruptions. Otherwise, the key to successful condition management is usually through medication.
How Does Your Dermatologist Treat Chronic Hives?
If you are diagnosed with chronic urticaria, your dermatologist will recommend a course of action. If there is a known cause at play, your dermatologist will encourage you to avoid known triggers. Often, they will prescribe allergy medications that can be effective for preventing outbreaks. Even though no allergies may be present, the medications target histamine production and will quell its release. Over-the-counter antihistamines are often effective for treating chronic urticaria. Plus, these medications don’t typically involve side effects.
Your doctor will first attempt to recommend non-drowsy antihistamines. If these medications don’t work, they may recommend the drowsy variety that patients can take at bedtime. In some cases, antihistamines alone may not be effective for completely managing chronic urticaria. Doctors may prescribe additional medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or even immune-suppressing drugs.
Living with Chronic Urticaria
If you have been diagnosed with chronic urticaria by your Southlake, TX, dermatologist, you may require long-term condition management. By making certain lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce symptoms and eruption occurrences. Here are some ways to enjoy more comfort when living with chronic hives:
Wear Loose Clothing
Tight clothing can trigger hive eruptions. Try to wear loose clothing whenever possible.
Use Gentle Soaps
Harsh soaps may not necessarily trigger your urticaria, but they can aggravate your irritated skin. Use gentle soaps on a routine basis.
Try to Avoid Scratching
Not scratching is easier said than done. That said, it is important to reduce scratching. Scratching will lead to further skin irritation and can lead to secondary problems like skin infections. Talk to your Southlake, TX, dermatologist about using recommended lotions or creams to soothe affected skin.
Keep your skin protected when you’re out in the sun by using sunscreen. Heat, of course, can trigger outbreaks of hives. Ask your dermatologist to recommend sunscreen for use with your condition.
Avoid Known Triggers
If you are aware that certain activities cause your skin to erupt in hives, try to avoid them. This may be difficult in the case of exercise. Sweat and heat can trigger hives. Consider an alternative exercise routine that includes swimming, for instance, if exercise is a trigger for you.
Schedule an Appointment with Compassion Dermatology
If you are suffering from hives and haven’t been diagnosed, it’s important to make an appointment to find out what may be causing your condition and if it is, indeed, chronic urticaria. You can prepare for your visit by providing our dermatologists with a clear history of your skin eruptions. Doctors will need to know how long you’ve been coping with the hives.
In most cases, healthcare providers will try to recommend lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications for chronic urticaria management. However, you will need to keep track of how well these efforts manage your condition. It’s not unusual for doctors to recommend dosing or medication changes.
Compassion Dermatology is a patient-centric practice that is committed to providing compassionate care to patients. Whether you’re living with chronic urticaria or some other skin condition, you can rely on our board-certified experts to provide you with the skilled medical care you need. Call us to schedule your visit today.