Urticaria, or hives, are small bumps on the skin which resemble bug bites or red or white welts on the skin that appear suddenly. They can include symptoms like mild to intense itching, swelling and pain, and often appear on the face, neck and upper chest and back, but can develop anywhere on the body.

Chronic hives can last for six weeks and recur over the span of several months or years.

What Causes Hives?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the hives. Hives can be the result of an allergic reaction, and chronic hives may appear as symptoms of a more serious disease, like lupus or thyroid-related diseases.

Hives can be irritating and painful, and hives that do not respond to treatment, cause dizziness, or are severe, should be examined by a medical professional immediately.

Symptoms of Hives

Hives are characterized by key symptoms, some of which are a cause of concern and should prompt immediate treatment. Symptoms include the following:

  • Red or white welts on the skin
  • Itching, mild to intense
  • Swelling in the throat or around the tongue
  • Swelling around the eyes, feet, genitalia, cheeks, lips and hands
  • Welts that flare up due to exercise, heat or stress
  • Symptoms which flare up frequently and last for longer periods of time

Symptoms which require immediate medical attention:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Swelling in the throat or tongue

If you or a loved one exhibits these symptoms, call 9-1-1 for immediate medical attention.

Treatment of Hives

If hives are not responsive to over-the-counter medications, a medically-trained professional can suggest a combination of drugs which may alleviate symptoms.

If the cause of the chronic hives can be identified, then treating the underlying medical condition can help alleviate hives.

Antihistamines are commonly prescribed for hives. Newer forms of antihistamines are generally offered in non-drowsy forms. If non-drowsy antihistamines do not work, then older forms may be prescribed.

Other forms of medication can be used if antihistamines do not decrease the symptoms caused by hives. These include the following:

  • H-2 receptor antagonists
  • Oral corticosteroids
  • Antidepressant doxepin in cream form

New options currently being researched which show promise for treating chronic hives include:

  • Immune suppressing drugs
  • Injectable asthma drugs
  • Asthma drugs with antihistamines

Hives and chronic hives can be very uncomfortable. It is important to seek the help of a medically-trained professional for intense symptoms, symptoms that persist and those that worsen over time.

To schedule a consultation, call the Skin & Cancer Center of Scottsdale at (480) 596-1110.

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