Urticaria: Understanding the Itchy World of Hives
Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is a skin condition characterized by the sudden appearance of itchy, raised, and often red or white welts on the skin. These welts can vary in size and shape and may appear and disappear within a few hours. Urticaria can be acute, lasting for a few days or weeks, or chronic, persisting for more than six weeks. This essay delves into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of urticaria.
Urticaria occurs when the body releases histamine and other chemicals in response to an allergic reaction or other triggers. Common causes of urticaria include:
Allergens: Exposure to allergens like pollen, animal dander, certain foods (e.g., nuts, shellfish, strawberries), or medications (e.g., antibiotics, aspirin) can lead to an allergic reaction that results in hives.
Infections: Viral or bacterial infections, such as the common cold or urinary tract infections, can sometimes trigger urticaria.
Physical factors: Urticaria can be induced by physical factors such as cold temperatures (cold urticaria), heat (cholinergic urticaria), pressure (dermatographism), or sunlight (solar urticaria).
Autoimmune diseases: Some autoimmune conditions, like lupus or thyroid disorders, can be associated with chronic urticaria.
Stress: Emotional stress or anxiety can exacerbate or trigger hives in susceptible individuals.
The hallmark symptom of urticaria is the appearance of raised, itchy welts on the skin. These welts can be small or large, and they often have well-defined borders. Additional symptoms may include:
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