Urticaria is one of the most irritating skin complaints which manifests itself in the form of itchy bumps and red patches that can appear anywhere on the surface of the skin. Apart from the embarrassing appearance of urticaria it is extremely uncomfortable, particularly the excessive itchiness.
Hives or urticaria can occur in anyone of any age and is usually associated with environmental factors that can affect lifestyle and diet. Although there are many known treatments currently used for treating hives, there are now more and more natural urticaria remedies also available.
Natural Urticaria remedies consist of mainly herbal concoctions that offer a lot of relief and comfort for the sufferer. Natural treatments are considerably less expensive and often a lot more effective. Such natural products can help build up the immune system so that the body can cope and fend of urticaria more effectively and keep it at bay for a lot longer.
Such natural urticaria remedies consist of aloe vera, which is a great anti bacterial agent, vitamin E oil, nettle which is very effective for treating inflammation of the skin, cayenne pepper, green tea and turmeric. All these natural herbs help reduce the itchiness and sooth the skin. They are known to speed up the healing process and dramatically improve the appearance of the skin.
With more and more people searching for natural solutions to a range of health complaints, there is now a huge market for natural treatments. Urticaria is no longer such a dreaded skin condition that it used to be, given that there are many effective herbal remedies available to aid a speedy as well as effective treatment.
Urticaria, also known as hives, tends to affect around 1 in 6 people at some point in their lives, with it being most prevalent in women aged between 30 and 60, children and allergy sufferers. Urticaria becomes ‘chronic’ if it lasts for 6 weeks or more, with women being twice as likely to suffer from chronic urticaria as men. Fortunately it’s far less common than short term urticaria, affecting approximately 1 in every 1000 people.
How is it caused?
Chronic urticaria is believed to be caused by a disturbance in your auto-immune system which causes your body to damage some of its cells. It can also occur as a result of an allergy to food, perfumes or medicine and from bacteria and parasites, although this is extremely uncommon. It tends to arise when a trigger (such as an allergy) results in the release of high levels of histamine and other forms of chemical messengers in the skin. When this happens, the blood vessels in the affected area open up allowing fluid to seep into the tissues, thus causing the skin to become red or pink, swollen and itchy.
Why does this happen?
In the vast majority of long-term or chronic urticaria cases, it’s usually not possible to find an obvious reason for the condition. However experts tend to think that it happens as a result of the immune system attacking healthy tissue without cause, with between a third and a half of all cases of chronic urticaria being classed as an autoimmune reaction. During the reaction, the body produces antibodies which in turn trigger the release of histamine, which causes the red, swollen and itchy bumps.
While it’s not known why this happens, it sometimes occurs together with other autoimmune conditions such as lupus, where the immune system attacks the joints and skin, and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also linked with several other chronic illnesses and infections, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and some liver infections too.
Do certain things make chronic urticaria worse?
Many sufferers of chronic urticaria find that although it tends to come and go, exposure to certain triggers may make it re-occur or worsen existing symptoms. These triggers include things such as feeling stressed, drinking alcohol and caffeine, certain medications, insect bites and stings, and exposure to hot and cold temperatures or pressure on the skin.
If you think you are suffering from chronic urticaria, you may want to consult with your physician for a full diagnosis.
If you’ve be diagnosed with chronic urticaria you’re more than likely to be well acquainted with the red, itchy rash of wheals that appears over your body. Whether these are small raised and swollen bumps, or they’ve run together to form larger areas of hives, it’s no doubt causing you both pain and discomfort, not to mention that it looks unsightly too. As a chronic sufferer of urticaria, you’re likely to experience reoccurring episodes which can last for anything from a few hours to a days, weeks or longer, and which often reach their peak of discomfort during the evenings to make sleeping very difficult.
While you may be aware that you do suffer from this condition, do you know what causes chronic urticaria?
Urticaria is classed as being chronic when your case of hives has lasted for 6 weeks or more. Just like acute urticaria, chronic urticaria occurs as an autoimmune response, causing your body to have an allergic reaction and produce histamine. This sometimes happens in response to a specific allergen or allergens, however in a high proportion of cases there is often no readily identifiable cause. If the allergen is unable to be identified, then you’re said to be suffering from Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria or CIU.
Chronic urticaria affects about 1 in 1000 people, with women being twice as likely to suffer from the condition as men. During an episode, your immune system releases high levels of histamine into your body, causing the blood vessels in the affected area to open up and leak fluid into the surrounding tissues. The skin then becomes swollen, red and inflamed and can be either painful, itchy or both. Symptoms of long-term urticaria can be unpredictable to say the least with about half of sufferers experiencing symptoms which last for 6-12 weeks, followed by periods of remission where their symptoms either get better or completely disappear. Many find that certain triggers will make their symptoms worse, especially during periods of stress or when they drink alcohol. Unfortunately, a small proportion of sufferers (around 10%) experience persistent symptoms all year round.
For many sufferers, it’s not possible to find an obvious cause for the condition, however over a third of all cases are classed as some kind of autoimmune reaction. Chronic urticaria can also occur together with other autoimmune conditions such as arthritis and lupus and illnesses such as hepatitis and thyroid issues.
While most doctors would prescribe anti-histamines, steroids or other forms of medication to treat chronic idiopathic urticaria, if you’re the kind of person who prefers to use more natural remedies, you may be interested in the following natural treatments which have proved effective.
Try natural remedies such as herbs, nettles and aloe vera
Many sufferers of CIU rely on anti-histamines to control the symptoms of this distressing condition as this medication is able to suppress the production of histamine (which causes the hives) from the mast cells. This has the effect of reducing the associated inflammation, and also helps them to disappear more quickly than if left to their own devices.
However, there are more natural ways of addressing the discomfort of hives, including using nettles, herbs or aloe vera, which all have naturally occurring anti-histamine properties, and which can help to soothe the discomfort of the condition. While these will provide much needed relief, they won’t offer a permanent cure, but they will make it easier to cope with the condition until it goes into natural remission.
Ways to ease the itching
A mixture of baking soda and water is an effective treatment for stopping the hives from itching, as are Epsom salt baths or oatmeal baths. However, while these do relieve the itchiness, they won’t cure the problem. It’s also believed that certain foods will help the body to fight off the allergic reaction. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, leafy greens and tomatoes, but generally anything which has a high level of vitamin C offers the best chance of keeping the hives under control.
However, as these fruits and vegetables could actually have caused the hives in the first place, it’s advisable to try to discover your personal triggers before effecting this particular natural remedy!
Probiotics help to get rid of toxins
It may also be worth trying other natural remedies such as Quercetin, which has been seen to control urticaria well, however it needs to be taken on a regular, long term basis to ensure that you don’t suffer a relapse and a repeat bout of hives. Some probiotics, such as acidophilus, have also proved effective, as they help the body to get rid of toxins.
Although urticaria is generally believed to be caused by an allergic reaction to specific allergens, these allergens will vary from person to person, and it may take a little trial and error before you find the best and most effective natural CIU treatment for you.
While many people (1 in 6) may have suffered from urticaria, otherwise known as hives, at some time in their life, some people suffer repeated episodes over a long period of time. If hives are a problem for periods of six weeks or longer, you’re said to suffer from chronic urticaria, a condition which affects approximately 1 in 1000 people. These episodes can last for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks or even for months at a time, and can be triggered by a number of factors, leaving the sufferer with red or pink raised wheals over large areas of their body, which may include the face, neck and lips.
When is urticaria classed as being chronic?
If your symptoms last for six weeks or longer, your urticaria will be classed as long-term or chronic. While symptoms can be unpredictable, almost 50% of sufferers find that their symptoms last between 6-12 weeks before they improve or disappear completely to give welcome periods of remission. However, some unfortunate people may find that their symptoms persist all year round. In the vast majority of cases, sufferers find that specific triggers tend to make their symptoms worse, including stress and alcohol consumption.
When does chronic urticaria become chronic idiopathic urticaria?
Chronic urticaria is an autoimmune condition which is caused when the immune system responds to an allergen by releasing histamine into the body. When this happens the blood vessels can open up, leaking fluid into the surrounding tissues which then cause the skin to become red or pink, swollen and itchy. For a proportion of sufferers, it’s possible to identify the allergen or allergens which have caused the reaction, however for a large number of cases, despite testing for various allergies, there’s no readily identifiable reason. If you suffer regularly from hives and it’s not been possible to identify the cause, then you’re likely to have the diagnosis of Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), which means that there is no identifiable trigger for your condition.
This means chronic urticaria isn’t necessarily idiopathic as it’s possible that the cause of your hives will be identified through various allergy testing or through keeping a diary to pinpoint the allergens that are having an effect on your immune system. However, for many people, identification of the triggers can prove to be very elusive, leaving them with the diagnosis of CIU.
If you suffer from chronic idiopathic urticaria, there’s no doubt that it’s a demoralizing condition, and the fact that allergists and dermatologists can offer no definitive treatments can mean that those with the condition have to suffer in silence. However, recent research has meant that as we start to understand more about the condition, the options for successful treatment are increasing.
What is the definition of CIU?
You’re said to have CIU when you experience daily, or almost daily wheals and itching for a period of six weeks or more, which have no obvious or known cause. In approximately 30-50% of CIU patients, the condition is due to an autoimmune process, where histamine is released in response to unknown allergens.
How is it treated?
Treatment for patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria usually consists of avoiding known triggers, taking antihistamines and being educated about the condition. Of course, if the triggers have not been identified, this can prove very difficult to treat, and as this is the case in between 50-80% of people, it means that many CIU sufferers will get little to no respite from the condition. However, 50% of sufferers do experience remission within 12 months, meaning treatment is no longer necessary. The most frequent kind of treatment for CIU involves antihistamines which are sometimes combined with other medications to control symptoms.
These are usually the first treatment prescribed, with diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and hydroxyzine (Atarax), being the most common. These are usually taken on a regular daily basis rather than just during acute episodes.
Some sufferers may be offered oral steroids which have proved very effective in controlling the symptoms of chronic urticaria. However, as these also have many possible side effects, their use is generally limited to just a couple of weeks.
When histamine is released from the mast cells, other chemicals called leukotrienes are also released. Leukotriene-receptor antagonists work in conjunction with anti-histamines to block the leukotriene receptors and are usually prescribed as an additional treatment, although they can be prescribed in isolation too.
Anti- inflammatory medication
Other options for treating CIU include anti-inflammatory medications, such as dapsone and hydroxychloroquine which are believed to suppress prostaglandin and leukotriene production.
Many patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria have been found to benefit from immunotherapy, with immunosuppressants such as cyclosporine and sirolimus proving effective in inhibiting the activity of the mast cells. However this is usually the last resort for severe cases of chronic idiopathic urticaria as they have potentially serious side effects.
If you’re experiencing an outbreak of itchy, red and swollen welts on your skin which have lasted for six weeks or more, it’s likely that you’re suffering from chronic urticaria. These can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, lips and throat. The wheals or welts can vary in size and sometimes spread together to form larger welts. While episodes of acute urticaria generally only last for a few hours at a time, if you’re suffering from chronic urticaria, the hives are likely to come and go over a period of months, and in some cases, can last for years. The condition isn’t contagious, and although it’s not life threatening, it can cause extreme distress, pain and discomfort if you’re a sufferer.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Urticaria appears as red, itchy welts or hives on your skin. While it does occur in both men and women, chronic urticaria is more prevalent in women aged between 20 and 40. Chronic urticaria is classed as an autoimmune condition, which usually happens when your body develops an allergic reaction to particular allergens. However, for a high proportion of cases, there’s no obvious reason why it happens at all. During the allergic reaction, histamines are released by the immune system, causing the characteristic red, itchy bumps.
If you suffer from hives on a regular basis and it’s been impossible to identify the cause, then you’re likely to be diagnosed with Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU), meaning that it’s extremely difficult or virtually impossible to identify the trigger for your condition.
How is Chronic Urticaria diagnosed?
To ensure that you get a correct diagnosis it’s important to visit your doctor, who will check your medical history and give you a physical examination. You’ll be questioned on the things you have come into contact with which may have caused the allergic reaction. Almost one fifth of cases are triggered by cold, heat and exercise, so these things may also be a factor. However, it’s highly likely that the exact cause of your hives will not be identified, especially if you have no previous history of allergies. On rare occasions, chronic hives can be a symptom of a more serious illness or condition such as a problem with the thyroid or liver.
So if you’ve been suffering from recurring episodes of hives, it’s probably time to make an appointment with your doctor, and let the professionals give you a definitive diagnosis.