Urticaria or Hives Types

Urticaria is the medical name for what we commonly know as hives–a condition that causes the skin to break out in patches of red, raised, and itchy bumps. Though in most cases urticaria is the result of an allergic reaction, in others, it is brought on by exposure to triggers that prompt skin cells to secrete the substance called histamine into the bloodstream. Urticaria has a variety of subtypes, classified based on reaction triggers.

Chronic Urticaria: Most cases of hives are characterized as acute, meaning they are temporary, lasting only about 6 weeks. A case of urticaria is considered chronic when your hives persist for longer than 6 weeks or they recur periodically for an extended period. Symptomatically, acute and chronic hives are identical; the main difference between the two is that chronic hives recur and disappear randomly, making treatment more taxing. Men and women of all ages are at a risk of developing chronic urticaria, though women in the age bracket of 20-40 are typically an increased risk of suffering from chronic hives.

Cold Urticaria: If there is a correlation between your hives and cold temperature, this type is characterized as cold urticaria. Every person experiences cold urticaria at a different severity level. While some may experience mild symptoms, others go through severe outbreaks. If someone with cold urticaria takes a dip in cold water, this can lead to what is known as a systemic reaction, impacting the whole body. A systemic reaction can be life-threatening. Cold urticaria typically affects young adults and only persists for up to a few years.

Urticaria Pigmentosa: A disorder known as mastocytosis causes inordinate mast cell (cells that secrete histamine) buildup in the skin. This type of urticaria is a confined variant of mastocytosis given that it only forms in sections with an abundance of mast cells. Urticaria pigmentosa most commonly affects children, but this does not mean it does not affect adults at all. The hallmark sign of this type of urticaria is brownish plaques on the skin. These plaques can easily get irritated and inflamed if scratched, leading to pus-filled sores or welts resembling hives. Some additional symptoms of urticaria pigmentosa may be dizziness, diarrhea, feeling flushed, increased heart rate, and headaches. In children, this type of urticaria improves on its own by the time the child has hit puberty.

Solar Urticaria: Solar urticaria is the rarest form of the condition, affecting less than 1% of the population. The first case of this type of urticaria was recorded in Japan back in 1916 and since then, only around 100 individuals have developed solar urticaria. In addition to typical hives, this type of urticaria seems to increase one’s sensitivity to natural or artificial sunlight, causing a stinging sensation. Solar urticaria only affects areas of the skin that get exposed to UV lights. The hives typically improve in a matter of minutes or a few hours after an exposure.

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Posted on May 5, 2023