Urticaria, also known as hives, can be caused by an allergic reaction. But sometimes, this condition can be associated with factors other than allergies. This HealthHearty write-up gives you a brief idea about the various factors that can cause the development of hives on the skin.
Urticaria is a type of skin rash that appears as a raised, red bump on the surface of the skin, and is also known by the name of hives. This type of skin rash can develop on any part of the body, and can last for several hours to weeks. More commonly, hives are caused by allergies, though factors other than allergies can also cause their development at times.
Hives usually develop when histamine is released by the mast cells. Histamine is the chemical responsible for causing allergic reactions. It basically dilates the blood vessels, and causes fluid to escape from the superficial blood vessels. This is turn leads to swelling or the appearance of raised bumps, that can last till the interstitial fluid is absorbed by the surrounding tissues.
What Causes Hives?
There are several different types of urticaria, and each of them has certain specific triggering factors. For example, acute form is usually caused by an allergic reaction that can be triggered by a number of factors, including insect bites and the consumption of certain food like shellfish, eggs, nuts, wheat, milk, and soy products. Sometimes, non-allergic factors like infections (caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi) can also cause this skin condition. So, hives can be associated with viral respiratory infections, viral hepatitis, fungal infections, as well as streptococcus and H. pylori infections.
Chronic urticaria on the other hand, can be idiopathic in nature, which means that its causes are unknown. However, autoimmune diseases are considered to have a relation to this condition. The hives developed due to this chronic condition can persist for more than 6 weeks. Another type, known as the drug-induced urticaria, can develop as a part of a reaction to some medications. Such medications can be anything, right from antibiotics, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to pain killers.
Dermatographism or dermatographic urticaria usually develops after scratching or stroking the skin. Physical urticaria can be of several types, and it can be caused by an exposure to sunlight, cold, heat, friction, and pressure. So, when hives appear due to an exposure to cold, it is known as cold urticaria, while solar urticaria usually develops after an exposure to sunlight.
Hives can also develop when the skin is subjected to constant pressure for a long time. Therefore, the act of sitting for a long period of time, or wearing tight-fitting clothes can cause the development of hives, that can more commonly appear in areas like the feet and the buttock. Apart from these, one can get hives due to dietary histamine poisoning, which can occur as a result of the ingestion of food containing a very high level of free histamine, such as spoiled fish. Certain food additives and preservatives can also trigger the development of hives in some individuals.
Signs and Symptoms
Hives appear as raised bumps or wheals, surrounded by a red margin or border. Such bumps are often accompanied by itching and a burning sensation. This type of skin rash can enlarge and spread to other areas of the body. Hives can be as small as the size of a pin head, and as large as the size of a coin. They often clear up within a couple of hours. However, chronic urticaria can last for 6 or more weeks.
The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, including hives are usually managed with the help of antihistamine drugs. However, the treatment depends to a great extent on the type of urticaria, as well as its severity. At times, physicians can combine antihistamines with other drugs to control or alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Severe cases might require the administration of steroids, tricyclic medications, immunosuppressant drugs, and epinephrine injections. However, It is important to identify the underlying factors that trigger the development of hives, in order to manage this condition in the long run.
It can be quite difficult to Identify the factors and allergens that can trigger the development of hives, as they can be different for different individuals. But for the effective management of this condition, it is important to identify and remove the actual triggering factors. So, you can consider to take the help of a physician to determine the underlying causes of this condition, especially if you get hives frequently, and the condition looks alarming.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.