What causes Chronic Urticaria?

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.