Chronic urticaria and autoimmunity

Urticaria 4

Chronic urticaria (CU) also known as hives, is a common disease in which at least 50% of cases are considered to be idiopathic. 20-40% of patients with CU may have autoimmune urticaria. One form of recognized autoimmune urticaria consists of the development of antibodies against the IgE receptor that can cause urticaria via histamine release. However, autoimmune urticaria might also signal the possibility of other autoimmune conditions.

This study collected data on 12,778 patients given a diagnosis of CU by either allergy or dermatology specialists during 17 years in a large health maintenance organization.

Having CU was associated with an increased odds ratio for:

– hypothyroidism
– hyperthyroidism
– antithyroid antibodies

Female patients with CU had a significantly higher incidence of:

– rheumatoid arthritis
– Sjögren syndrome
– celiac disease
– type I diabetes mellitus
– systemic lupus erythematosus

These conditions were mostly diagnosed during the 10 years after the diagnosis of CU.

This study suggests that chronic urticaria might be the first manifestation of an autoimmune disease. However, it is important to understand that not all patients with chronic urticaria will develop autoimmune disease. For majority, urticaria might be all there is. If you have urticaria/hives lasting for more than 6 weeks, an Allergist can help.

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