What is the clinical background of chronic urticaria?

Updated: Jul 31, 2018
  • Author: Marla N Diakow, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Answer

Chronic urticaria, defined as urticaria that persists for longer than 6 weeks, is a frustrating condition for both patients and caregivers. Urticaria is not a single disease but a reaction pattern caused by or related to various factors, which trigger cutaneous mast cell degranulation and resulting extravasation of plasma into the dermis.

Urticaria is characterized by hives or wheals (see images below), which are edematous pruritic papules or plaques. The variety of potential triggers of chronic urticaria, and large number of cases without known cause, can make the approach to diagnosis and treatment a challenge. Patients with chronic urticarial may not improve or may depend on medication for years to relieve symptoms.

Urticaria developed after bites from an imported f Urticaria developed after bites from an imported fire ant.
Urticaria associated with a drug reaction. Urticaria associated with a drug reaction.

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