can hives be associated with lymphedema?

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can hives be associated with lymphedema?

Postby devi » Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:49 pm

I am new to any site or message board. Have had lymphedema about 2 yrs. after a benign biopsy of rt. axilla. Since that time have developed hives whenever I get too hot or sweat- almost seem allergic to my own sweat ! Nasty! Was wondering if it could be related to buildup of toxins no longer effectively removed due to L? No medication works and is driving me a little crazy. Any info appreciated.
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hives and lymphedema

Postby patoco » Thu Sep 21, 2006 7:32 pm

Hi Devi

Super welcome to our family here :)

There is at least one study that does indicate that lymphedema patients do have an impaired ability of freeing their body of radical free agents.

But most don't report having hives. The only time I had a problem with hives was about 6 years ago and as suddenly as hey started, they stopped.

One thing you could do is to make sure you give a healthy amount of water each day. This is about the best "flusher" fluid there is.

When you have them, do you take anything like benedryl?

What has your doctor said about them. Has the doc tested you for any unknown allergy?

Here's some pages on hive also.

*amended 09/27/06*

***After What Silkie and the others said about their experiences, I need to correct or at least clarify what I said above. Ran accross some abstract that clearly show the the VEGF gene, one of the main LE genes does infact play a role in contact dermatitis and even psoriasis.

So on that basis, we may conclude that lymphedema could actually cause you to be more prone to experience hives. I will try to post additional info later.***





Hives — also known as urticaria — are raised, red, often itchy welts (wheals) of various sizes that appear and disappear on the skin. Angioedema, a similar swelling, causes large welts deeper in the skin, especially near the eyes and lips. A more serious condition — hereditary angioedema (HAE) — is an uncommon, inherited disorder, which can cause sudden, severe and rapid swelling of the face, arms, legs, hands, feet, genitalia, digestive tract and airway.

As many as one in five people experiences acute hives or angioedema at one time or another. HAE affects only about 6,000 people in the United States.

In most cases, hives and angioedema are harmless and leave no lasting marks. The common treatment is medications. Serious angioedema can be life-threatening if swelling causes your throat or tongue to block your airway and leads to loss of consciousness.

Signs and symptoms

Acute hives can last from less than a day to up to six weeks, whereas chronic hives last more than six weeks — sometimes occurring for months to years at a time. Often, angioedema and hives and hives occur at the same time.

Hives are raised, red bumps of various sizes that appear and disappear on your skin. They're often itchy and may look similar to mosquito bites. Wheals tend to occur in batches.

Angioedema is similar to hives, but occurs deeper in the skin. Signs and symptoms of angioedema include large welts or swelling of the skin that may occur in the following locations:

Especially near your eyes and lips

On your hands
On your feet
On your genitalia
Inside your throat

Signs and symptoms of HAE include:

Sudden and severe swelling of your face, arms, legs, hands, feet, genitalia, digestive tract and airway
Abdominal cramping as a result of digestive tract swelling
Difficulty or obstructed breathing due to swelling of your airway


The lesions of hives and angioedema are caused by inflammation in the skin. In some cases, hives and angioedema are triggered when certain cells (mast cells) — which line the blood vessels in your skin — release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream and skin.

Allergic reactions to medications or foods can cause acute hives or angioedema. Many allergens have been identified.

Examples include:

Foods. Many foods can cause problems in sensitive people, but shellfish, fish, nuts, eggs and milk are frequent offenders.

Medications. Almost any medication may cause hives or angioedema, but more common culprits include antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and blood pressure medications.

Other allergens. Other substances that can cause hives and angioedema include pollen, animal dander, latex and substances injected into your skin from insect stings.

Additional triggers that may produce hives or angioedema include:

Physical factors.

Environmental elements also can result in the release of histamine with subsequent hives or angioedema in some people.

Examples of these factors include elements such as heat, cold, sunlight, water, pressure on the skin, emotional stress and exercise.


The name of this condition literally means "write on the skin." When pressure is applied to the skin or the skin is scratched, raised lines appear on those areas due to histamine-based angioedema that leads to swelling beneath the skin.

In addition to these triggers, hives and angioedema sometimes may occur in response to the body's production of antibodies. Some examples of situations in which this might occur include blood transfusions, immune system disorders, such as lupus or cancer, certain thyroid disorders and infections, such as hepatitis A or B, or even a cold.

Hereditary angioedema is an inherited form of angioedema and is related to low levels or abnormal functioning of certain blood proteins (C1 inhibitors). These inhibitors play a role in regulating how your immune system functions.

Risk factors

You may be at greater risk of hives and angioedema if you:

Have had hives or angioedema before
Have had other allergic reactions
Have a family history of hives or angioedema
When to seek medical advice

Mild hives and angioedema usually aren't life-threatening, and often you can treat hives and angioedema at home. However, seek emergency care if you feel lightheaded, have difficulty breathing, or if swelling or hives don't respond to treatment or continue to appear for more than a couple of days.

Screening and diagnosis

It's sometimes impossible to determine the cause of hives or angioedema. Your doctor will begin by asking you about your medical history. This may include asking you to create a detailed diary of exposure to possible irritants. It's important to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and herbal remedies, even if you don't take them every day. Your doctor may also want to conduct allergy tests, such as skin tests.

If your doctor suspects HAE, he or she may ask for blood tests to check for levels and function of specific blood proteins. If your doctor suspects allergy to food, latex, animal dander, pollen or medication, he or she may recommend allergy skin or blood tests.


Hives and angioedema can, at the least, cause itching and discomfort. In more serious cases — when swelling occurs inside your mouth or throat — complications can include difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness. Anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis) is a serious allergic reaction involving your heart or lungs. Your bronchial tubes narrow, it's difficult to breathe, and your blood pressure drops, causing dizziness and perhaps loss of consciousness or even death. This occurs rapidly, and requires immediate medical care.


If your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment. The standard treatment for hives and angioedema is antihistamines, which block the symptom-producing release of histamine. These include:

Nonprescription medications

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others)
Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, others)
Clemastine (Tavist, others)
Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)

Occasionally, for severe hives or angioedema, doctors may prescribe an oral corticosteroid drug — such as prednisone — which can help lessen swelling, redness and itching.

Although useful in treating hives and angioedema, these medications are often ineffective in treating hereditary angioedema. Medications used specifically to treat HAE on a long-term basis include certain androgens, such as danazol (Danocrine), that help regulate levels of blood proteins.

For a severe attack of hives or angioedema, you may need an emergency injection of adrenaline (epinephrine) and a trip to the emergency room. If you have repeated attacks, despite treatment, your doctor may prescribe — and instruct you how to use — adrenaline to carry with you for use in emergency situations.


To lower the likelihood of experiencing hives or angioedema, take the following precautions:

Avoid known triggers. These may include certain foods or medications, or situations, such as temperature extremes, that have triggered past allergic attacks.

Keep a diary. If you suspect foods of causing the problem, keep a food diary. Be aware that some foods may contain ingredients that are listed by less common names on the label.


If you're experiencing mild hives or angioedema, these tips may help relieve your symptoms:

Avoid irritating affected areas.
Take cool showers.
Apply cool compresses.
Wear loose, light clothing.

Minimize vigorous activity, which can release more irritants into the skin.
Use over-the-counter antihistamines to help relieve the itching. ... DSECTION=1



Dr. Greene

Related concepts:
Chronic Urticaria, Urticaria, Welts, Wheals

Hives can be quite uncomfortable. I remember getting hives after being stung by a jellyfish, and I couldn't sleep without Benadryl for several nights. I also discovered that distraction can sometimes help with the itching. This is one situation where videos and kid’s cassettes might be a real boon. And don’t forget to add an extra hug or two.

What is it?
Hives are a sign that the whole body is experiencing a hypersensitivity reaction. Hives occur when the body's capillaries and tiny veins get leaky. Fluid escaping from some of these blood vessels becomes trapped in parts of the skin and lining membranes of the body, causing localized swelling.

This leakiness can be caused by classic allergic reactions in which histamine triggers an inflammatory response. It can also be caused by a number of other regulatory systems in the body in response to different types of triggers.

The most common allergic triggers are drugs, especially antibiotics; foods, especially fish, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, eggs, berries, and food additives; infections (which we'll discuss below); insect bites or stings; inhalants such as animal danders, pollens, and molds; and contact allergens like plant substances, skin creams, cat scratches, moth scales, or animal saliva. In college I had a pet tarantula for a while and some of my friends got hives from petting her hairy abdomen. :-)

There are also a number of distinct physical causes of hives (known as urticaria in doctor-speak):

Cold urticaria – the most common of the physical causes. These hives are triggered by exposure to cold water or air. This would be a good excuse to avoid swimming in cold pools (something my kids love for me to do).

Dermatographia -- hives that appear where the skin is firmly stroked. (Named because you can write on someone's skin by raising welts where your finger traced). This occurs in about 5% of people (and many more if you repeatedly stroke hard enough).

Pressure urticaria -- hives that appear under tightly fitting clothing or jewelry. Unlike dermatographia, which occurs in seconds, this can appear many hours later, obscuring the cause.

Cholinergic urticaria -- hives that occur in response to heat, exercise, or emotional stress. This usually doesn't begin before adolescence.

Aquagenic urticaria -- hives that are triggered by contact with sweat or with water. In these people, exercise itself is not a trigger, and they can drink water without a problem.

Solar urticaria -- a rare disorder in which sun exposure results in hives. Sunscreen can help!

I mentioned earlier that infections could trigger hives. We know that some parasites can be responsible for hives (including giardia and pinworms, which are common in day care settings). We also know that bacterial infections, most notably Strep, can be the culprit. Viruses of many types can trigger hives as well.

Over 70 percent of the time no specific cause is found when children have hives. They were hypersensitive to something, but no one discovers what, and the hives go away. Doctors think that most of these unidentified cases may be from viruses, which would make them the most common cause of hives. This is particularly likely when there is a cluster of cases (although molds, animals, foods, parasites, etc. could also be responsible for clusters).

Who gets it?
About 20 percent of people will experience hives at some point in their lives. Those who have known allergies or a family history of allergies are more likely to get hives. All other things being equal, girls are more likely to get them than boys.

What are the symptoms?
Wheals or welts come and go on the skin or mucous membranes. These may itch intensely, itch only a little, or not itch at all.

Each typically has a whitish, raised patch of skin surrounded by a reddish halo. The welts may be tiny or large, and may be all over the body or confined to one area.

Is it contagious?
Hives themselves are not contagious, but the triggers of hives, especially viruses, bacteria, and parasites, may be contagious.

How long does it last?
The individual welts often disappear quickly and are usually gone within 48 hours, although new ones may continue to appear for days or weeks. If new hives keep occurring for six weeks, this is called chronic Urticaria.

How is it diagnosed?
Usually hives can be diagnosed based on the history and physical examination. Sometimes specific allergy testing or testing for infection is needed to look for the underlying cause.

Chronic urticaria is usually not serious, but can be a sign of an underlying disease process. Children with chronic hives should have a thorough physical exam and lab work just to be sure there are no underlying illnesses.

How is it treated?
Hives are usually treated with an antihistamine, such as Benadryl or the prescription Atarax. If drowsiness is a problem, one of the newer, non-sedating antihistamines may be a better choice. Sometimes antihistamines are coupled with a histamine H2 blocker, such as cimetidine, for a more powerful effect.

A variety of stronger treatments are available, but are usually unnecessary. If there are other allergic symptoms, such as wheezing or tightening of the throat, then a shot of epinephrine may be needed.

How can it be prevented?
The best way to prevent another bout of hives is to identify your child’s triggers and avoid them. If you know in advance that your child will be exposed to a trigger, a preventive dose of antihistamine can prevent or minimize the hives.

Alan Greene MD FAAP


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Last edited by patoco on Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby silkie » Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:17 am

Hi Devi

Hivesssssssss They tormented my childhood

We talked one evening in chat and what did suprise me was how quite a percentage of us Suffered hives.

Might be a coinsidence but i often wondered if there was a connection
those if us that did suffer all had primary and looking back the lymph started around pubity maybe another coinsidence

like to see some research on it.


Silks xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And Pat is right plenty of fluids really helps
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Postby coyote » Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:32 pm

Hives have been a part of life as long as I can remember.

I believe one of the first signs I had lymphema can be traced back to my hives episodes as a young child. Even as an adult, I continued to have hives reactions to who knows what besides maybe stress. Never did figure out what caused them after we realized I was reacting to OTC pain relievers (NSAIDS) in my teens. Thought that would resolve the issue, but it didn't. I just had fewer incidences.

Only thing that worked for me was when I began taking claritin for perennial sinus problems a couple of years ago or so. Claritin is a wonderful drug for people with chronic hives and/or nasal congestion. I do occassionally get a very mild case of hives even with claritin, but its doable compared to what I used to live with. Claritin is a drug that should be taken dily over a long term, not haphazardly, to get the results you want.

I also have problems with my body reacting to my sweat. I get redness and irritation which eventually turns into a rash and fungal infection. I have resorted to putting an anti-fungal cream on those areas.

I remember when I did tai chi, because it is so effective in removing toxins from our bodies, my instructor, who was also an occupational therapist, was careful to remind us to shower (or at least wipe down) our bodies after class because otherwise our bodies would reabsorb those toxins. If you can arrange to take a quick shower after you have done any physical activity. You do not have to do the full spa treatment, just remove the sweat from your body.

You definately are in good company in this forum! Hope you get some relief shouldn't have to live with it.

Julie E
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Postby patoco » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:13 am

Hi Everyone

After what Silkie and Julie said, I did further research and updated my original response.

Thanks you both for your input...caused me to do a second take and make sure the info we have is the most accurate.

As I mentioned in my addenum above, one of the LE genes, VEGF does indeed play a role in contact dermatitis and psoriasis.

This is so odd to me as I have never had allergies....infact I am even immune to poison oak and poison ivy. I can grab it by the handfuls and never react.

Never stop learning with lymphedema...always something new to discover.


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Postby silkie » Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:58 am

WTG Pat, and thank you

You are so right we never stop learning

or we shouldnt.

Silks xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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Postby coyote » Wed Sep 27, 2006 2:45 pm

Hi Pat,

I am not allergic to poison Ivy either. Freaked some friends out once when they saw me standing in a bed of the stuff years ago. That was kind of funny. Don't know about poison oak. Nettle doesn't even bother me much. I've had the skin prick allergy testing which came up with nothing for allergies, too.

I forgot to mention above when I wrote about my childhood chronic hives incidents, I swelled up like a balloon, which was an unusual reaction for hives. Welts and some swelling is normal, but not what I had. That's why I think an impaired lymphatic system was involved in my hives reaction and why I think it was one of the first signs I had LE.

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