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5 Burning Things You Want to Know About CSU

Hives? Itchiness? Swelling? We answered 5 questions about CSU that you may be too afraid to ask.

Most of us have been there—that mysterious red spot appears somewhere on your body and immediately your mind starts racing with questions. What does it mean? Is it contagious? What other symptoms should I look for? Am I turning into a red monster? Well, maybe not the last one. You do some online searching, and suddenly you’ve found yourself buried deep in the recesses of the internet, paralyzed from the uncertainty of message boards and un-credentialed commenters saying you could have any disease under the sun. But before you go into all-out panic mode, here are some answers to a few burning questions you may have about urticaria (no pun intended):

  1. Are you sure they’re hives? Maybe it is just a rash.
    What’s itchy, red, raised and appears on your skin without a notice? You guessed it; it’s likely a hive1,2,3. Pay attention to the duration of the redness. Individual outbreaks can last minutes to hours—hives that last for at least six weeks or more may be chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU)4.

  2. How did this end up on me? Did I spend too much time in the sun? Exercise too much? Is it something I ate or drank?
    If it is urticaria (and only your doctor can determine that) it may be one of the two types of urticaria: acute and chronic. Only acute is triggered by an allergen such as food, latex, or medicine—your doctor can help test for allergic causes5. Hives from CSU however, often occur without warning, and their cause is very tough to decipher, and may take a long time to diagnose. Once your doctor can help you determine which type of urticaria you have, and how best to manage it.

  3. So I think it may be CSU. Should I see a doctor?
    Yes. If you see something, say something. Your doctor is the expert that will begin diagnosis and point you in the right direction. One of the most important things to do, however, is to let your doctor know all of your symptoms, and that means how you are feeling physically, and mentally as well.

  4. So, can I scratch it?
    Although it may feel amazing, don’t. We know how impossible it can be to resist the urge to scratch when your skin is itchy and irritated. However, scratching will not relieve you of your symptoms if you indeed have CSU. For now, try placing a cool compress on the affected area and then consult a doctor—or don a pair of mittens.

  5. Is CSU dangerous?
    CSU can certainly wreak havoc on your sanity and skin, but it is typically a non life-threatening condition6.  The itching can wake you up in the middle of the night, cause you to loose sleep, and generally have an affect on your overall well-being. Not to mention, around 40% of CSU cases, patients experienced angioedema – a relatively serious swelling condition of the head, neck, hands, feet and other body parts7.

Most of us have been there—that mysterious red spot appears somewhere on your body and immediately your mind starts racing with Bottom line, if you see something that is alarming on your skin, it is definitely worth noting for your doctor. Some live with their condition for a long time without ever mentioning it, and they’re mistaken! Yes, it can be tough to talk about, but the first step feeling better in your own is talking to your doctor, so don’t hold back!

  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) website. "Chronic Urticaria (Hives)." Accessed July 2014. http://www.skintolivein.com/urticaria/urticaria-a-real-problem/
  2. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) website. "Skin Allergy Overview." Accessed July 2014. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/skin-allergy.aspx
  3. Maurer M et al. Allergy 2011; 66:317-30.
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Chronic Hives (Urticaria).” 13 June 2014 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-hives/basics/definition/con-20031634
  5. Kenry, Tim. “Acute Urticaria – Hives.” Patient.com/info 13 January. 2014 http://patient.info/health/acute-urticaria-hives
  6. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “Hives (Urticaria).” http://acaai.org/allergies/types/skin-allergies/hives-urticaria
  7. Urticaria and angioedema: diagnosis and evaluation. Cooper KD. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1991 Jul;25(1 Pt 2):166-74; discussion 174-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1869691

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