Is Chronic Urticaria always idiopathic?

While many people (1 in 6) may have suffered from urticaria, otherwise known as hives, at some time in their life, some people suffer repeated episodes over a long period of time. If hives are a problem for periods of six weeks or longer, you’re said to suffer from chronic urticaria, a condition which affects approximately 1 in 1000 people. These episodes can last for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks or even for months at a time, and can be triggered by a number of factors, leaving the sufferer with red or pink raised wheals over large areas of their body, which may include the face, neck and lips.

When is urticaria classed as being chronic?
If your symptoms last for six weeks or longer, your urticaria will be classed as long-term or chronic. While symptoms can be unpredictable, almost 50% of sufferers find that their symptoms last between 6-12 weeks before they improve or disappear completely to give welcome periods of remission. However, some unfortunate people may find that their symptoms persist all year round. In the vast majority of cases, sufferers find that specific triggers tend to make their symptoms worse, including stress and alcohol consumption.

When does chronic urticaria become chronic idiopathic urticaria?
Chronic urticaria is an autoimmune condition which is caused when the immune system responds to an allergen by releasing histamine into the body. When this happens the blood vessels can open up, leaking fluid into the surrounding tissues which then cause the skin to become red or pink, swollen and itchy. For a proportion of sufferers, it’s possible to identify the allergen or allergens which have caused the reaction, however for a large number of cases, despite testing for various allergies, there’s no readily identifiable reason. If you suffer regularly from hives and it’s not been possible to identify the cause, then you’re likely to have the diagnosis of Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), which means that there is no identifiable trigger for your condition.

This means chronic urticaria isn’t necessarily idiopathic as it’s possible that the cause of your hives will be identified through various allergy testing or through keeping a diary to pinpoint the allergens that are having an effect on your immune system. However, for many people, identification of the triggers can prove to be very elusive, leaving them with the diagnosis of CIU.

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