Uriticaria, more commonly known as hives, are red or light colored bumps that appear on the skin and are generally very itchy and sometimes burn or sting. They are can be caused by an allergen, chemicals in foods, insect stings, sun exposure, and some medications but oftentimes the cause of hives remains a mystery.
Why do hives form?
When histamine is released from certain skin cells, the skin’s blood vessels respond by releasing blood plasma. This forms the raised, red bumps on the skin.
How do I figure out what is causing my hives?
A board-certified dermatologist can help you attempt to discover the cause of hives by learning about your medical history and testing substances to which you might be allergic. If a specific allergen can be identified, patients will be instructed to stay away from the allergen. The foods most likely to cause allergic reactions are nuts, fish, eggs, shellfish, and berries. While some food allergies will present the first time a child eats the food, food allergies can both develop over time and disappear as children get older.
In cases where the allergen produces extreme allergic reactions, like the swelling of the throat and tongue, patients may be given a prescription for an epinephrine autoinjector, like EpiPen, which can be used to contain allergic reactions until medical treatment can be obtained.
If you experience hives that are not caused by an obvious allergen and are chronic – hives that reoccur for longer than a few weeks – you should see a dermatologist as soon as possible. While most cases of chronic hives are not medically dangerous, some serious conditions can cause chronic hives. For instance, thyroid disease, hepatitis, infections, and even cancer can occasionally present as hives.
The dermatologists at Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery can help patients explore different treatment options, including topical treatments, oral antihistamines, and corticosteroids.