Giant Urticaria: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis and Management

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Giant Urticaria: An In-Depth Exploration


Giant urticaria, also known as angioedema, is a skin condition characterized by the sudden onset of large, swollen, itchy hives that can occur anywhere on the body. Unlike typical hives, which are typically small and last for a few hours, giant urticaria lesions can be several inches in diameter and can persist for days or even weeks. This condition can be both physically and emotionally distressing, as it can cause significant discomfort, disfigurement, and anxiety.


The exact cause of giant urticaria is unknown in many cases, but it is believed to be an immune system response to an allergen or trigger. Some common triggers include:

  • Food allergies (e.g., peanuts, shellfish, milk)
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Medications (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen)
  • Cold or heat exposure
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Infections


The primary symptom of giant urticaria is the presence of large, swollen, itchy hives. These hives can vary in size from a few centimeters to several inches in diameter. They typically appear suddenly and can last for several days or weeks. Other associated symptoms may include:

  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness


Diagnosis of giant urticaria is typically based on a physical examination and a patient’s reported history of symptoms. In some cases, additional tests may be ordered to rule out other medical conditions with similar symptoms, such as hereditary angioedema or mastocytosis. These tests may include blood tests, allergy skin tests, or a biopsy of the affected skin.


Treatment for giant urticaria aims to reduce symptoms and prevent further attacks. The following treatment options may be considered:

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines block the release of histamine, a chemical that causes inflammation and itching. They can be taken orally or applied topically to the affected skin.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can help reduce swelling and itching. They can be administered orally, topically, or by injection.
  • Epinephrine: Epinephrine (adrenaline) is a medication that can rapidly reduce life-threatening swelling in cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can occur with giant urticaria. It is typically administered by injection.
  • Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressants are medications that suppress the immune system and can be used in severe cases of giant urticaria that are unresponsive to other treatments.


In most cases, giant urticaria is a self-limiting condition that resolves within a few days or weeks. However, in rare cases, it can lead to serious complications, including:

  • Anaphylaxis: Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur in response to certain triggers in individuals with giant urticaria. It can cause severe swelling of the face, throat, and tongue, leading to difficulty breathing and even death.
  • Chronic urticaria: Giant urticaria can become chronic, meaning it persists for more than six weeks. Chronic urticaria can be difficult to manage and may significantly impact quality of life.


The prognosis for giant urticaria varies depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In most cases, it is a benign condition that resolves within a short period of time. However, in chronic and severe cases, ongoing treatment and management may be necessary to control symptoms and prevent complications.


Preventing giant urticaria can be challenging as the exact cause is often unknown. However, the following measures may help reduce the risk of triggers and symptoms:

  • Identify and avoid triggers: If possible, identify and avoid known triggers such as food allergies, insect bites or stings, and medications.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector: Individuals with a history of anaphylaxis should carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of an emergency.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing: Tight clothing can rub against the skin and irritate it, potentially triggering hives.
  • Manage stress: Stress is a known trigger for giant urticaria. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system and make it more susceptible to allergic reactions.


Giant urticaria is a skin condition that can cause large, swollen, itchy hives. While the exact cause is often unknown, it is believed to be an immune system response to an allergen or trigger. Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and preventing further attacks, and may include antihistamines, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, or epinephrine. In most cases, giant urticaria is a self-limiting condition, but it can become chronic or lead to serious complications in some cases. Identifying and avoiding triggers, managing stress, and getting enough sleep can help reduce the risk of symptoms.

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