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Date of last update: 10/18/2017.

Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: Hives, swelling, painful joints - long-term

 HollyShannon - Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:46 am

I'm reaching out to anyone who can give me a direction to go in.

I am 22, and since I was little I've had trouble with allergic reactions (to what, no one was ever able to figure out). When I was a small child I had erythema multiforme multiple times - once when I was three it was diagnosed as the major form; other than that, it was the minor form. My mother treated me with Benadryl and oatmeal baths, and it would last for about a week and go away. The last time I had the erythema multiforme I was 7. The doctors could not figure out what triggered it. At age 14, I started breaking out in hives which were normally accompanied by swelling. Some of the most severe cases involved me being fine in the morning, and by lunch time I had hives on my hands, arms, feet, legs, eyelids, and lips and those parts swollen as well; my eyelids and lips were purple from being swollen and covered in hives, and I could grip a doorknob my hands were so swollen. We would treat that with Benadryl and sleep. I went to many doctors at that time, and the only things that they could find I was allergic to were cats and Kentucky bluegrass - I wasn't in the grass, and while we had a cat, my allergic reaction to the cat was a different one - not nearly as severe, and it consisted of a reddening of the skin and slight itching (nothing like that hives and swelling that I was experiencing). This happened for about a year or so as severe as I've stated, and then I would randomly break out in hives. The last time that that happened I was 18, 19, and all it was was some hives, not much swelling, and nothing severe. My mother and I figured out that every time I took an OTC pain medication, such as aspirin, Tylonel, or Motrin, it would trigger the reaction. Heat also seemed to be a trigger - if I took a hot shower, I would notice hives on my eyelids. However, I would have a reaction sometimes when these weren't factors. I eventually was able to take aspirin again, but I haven not tried any of the other ones.

I am now 22. This is the second time that I've swollen up and broken out in hives in the past two weeks. The last time my right eye had been watering all day, and that evening I noticed swelling. By that morning both the top and bottom lids were swollen, and hives started appearing on my hands. By that evening, my hands were covered with large itching hives, my eye was swollen, and my hands were so swollen that I couldn't grip anything. I soaked my hands in Epsom salts, took Benadryl, and slept. It took about 2 days for this to go away - for a few days afterwards, the joints in my hand were very painful. The second time this happened was yesterday - I noticed that the bottom lid on the left eye had swollen. I had a few hives on my hands, nothing severe as the last time. However, my eye is still swollen, and I now have a sore throat that is red and looks swollen inside. Before these two recent episodes I have noticed body aches and headaches. The hives this second time appear and disappear (at the time I started to write this, I had none - now I have a few peppering the top of both hands). Although I have not seen any swelling in my hands, my joints in my fingers hurt as if they are swollen.

This does not seem to correlate with any point in my menstrual cycle. I have not eaten or done anything out of the ordinary. I also notice that I am more on edge and snappy to those around me - whether it's part of the cause or part of the effect I do not know. There aren't any marked changes my in eating or drinking, and body functions appear normal. I also haven't moved to a new area. I did start working in a veterinary office, but this didn't start until I had been there for at least 3 months, and nothing strange has happened at work either.

The only "surgery" that I have ever had were tubes in my ears when I was a young toddler. There were no complications. Other than this allergy business, I have had a relatively normal and healthy life, other than being susceptible to colds and the like, none of which were life-threatening.

I've been dealing with this allergic reaction to whatever it may be for so many years. If someone can point me in the right direction, or help me in some way - as a new college graduate, I don't have my parents' insurance anymore, and my job doesn't offer any. I'd prefer to be armed with some knowledge or at least something to discuss instead of spending the money for a doctor to tell me that I'm having an allergic reaction, to what they're not sure.

Thank you for any and all help. I hope that I have covered my history and the symptoms fully. If anyone has any questions or needs some clarification, please don't hesitate to ask.
 Dr.M.jagesh kamath - Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:08 pm

User avatar Hello,You have chronic urticaria and the pathogenisis is not fully known.What is known is that histamine liberation causes symptoms of itching and localized swellings.These are transient.Sometimes angioneurotic odema can coexist with chronic urticaria causing non itchy swellings of the mucus membranes.Drugs,foods,food additives,septic foci and stress all could cause or precipitate an urticaria.In many it remains unknown the causative factors.Therapy hinges on antihistaminics,and steroids in a limited few.There are a few medical conditions like hepatitisB,autoimmune diseases which can be present in patients with chronic urticaria and need to be ruled out.Arthralgias do occur in patients with urticaria.If urticaria lasts longer than 24 hrs and leaves behind pigmentation an urticarial vasculitis need to be ruled out.This involves small blood vessels and could involve other organs.In your case this is unlikely with your history.Do get a checkup and it is likely that you may need long term antihistamines.Best wishes and hope you will be fine soon.

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