What Doctors Wish You Knew About Chronic Hives

Eileen Bailey | Jun 27th 2017 Jul 10th 2017

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Chronic hives is a confusing condition. You, often for no apparent reason, break out in hives. Your skin is itchy and you might feel exhausted. When talking to your doctor, your only question might be, “Why?” But understanding this condition is important to managing the symptoms. Read through to find out what your doctor might wish you knew about chronic hives.

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Chronic hives are not as rare as you think

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Chronic hives, especially when the cause isn’t known, are scary. Despite feeling isolated, you aren’t alone. Around 1.5 million people in the United States have chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Worldwide, about three percent of adults and five percent of children live with this condition according to a review of 10 international studies.

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Autoimmune disease might be the cause

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About one half of all cases of chronic hives are caused by autoimmune disorders, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. They can also be caused by hormonal imbalances. One study found that about one third of people with chronic hives had the Helicobacter pylori antigen in their digestive system, according to a study in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology. Over 90 percent of those people significantly reduced symptoms of hives when that infection was treated.

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Vitamin D might help

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A study completed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that people who took vitamin D-3 supplements had significant improvement of chronic hive symptoms. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center states side effects of excessive vitamin D can include metal taste in the mouth, thirst, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, itchy skin, vomiting or diarrhea, constipation, increased urination, and muscle problems. Talk to your doctor before adding a vitamin D supplement.

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Sometimes the cause is never known

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For the rest of the people living with chronic hives, the underlying causes are never known. This is called chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU). When this happens, your doctor works with you to manage and control symptoms to reduce the effect on your quality of life.

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You never know how long it will last

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Just as the cause can be difficult to discern, so can the course of the disease. Some people live with chronic hives for several months or several years and then it disappears, never to return. Other people continue to have flares and outbreaks throughout their lives.

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It isn’t usually life-threatening

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Chronic hives are irritating, itchy, and can interfere with daily functioning,  but the disease is rarely life-threatening. However, about 40 percent of people with chronic hives also have angioedema according to the World Allergy Organization. This condition can cause swelling of the throat, tongue, and lips, which can make breathing difficult. It sometimes requires immediate medical attention.

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Being aware of triggers can help you avoid a flare

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Some are obvious, such as allergies to pollen, pet dander, or shellfish. Other common triggers include peanuts, eggs, nuts, antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen, insect bites, pressure, cold heat, exercise, sun exposure, latex, blood transfusions, and some plants per the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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There are some surprising triggers

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Some surprising triggers can be tooth decay, urinary tract infections, bacterial or viral infections, and hepatitis according to Advances in Dermatology and Allergology.

NEXT: Treatment Options for Chronic Hives
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