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Hereditary angioedema: Classification, pathogenesis, and diagnosis

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Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is a rare autosomal dominant genetic disorder associated with a deficiency in C1 inhibitor. More than 200 mutations in this gene, located on chromosome 11, have been identified. Although HAE is often inherited, 20‐25% of cases are from new spontaneous mutations and they have no family history of swelling. Decreased C1 inhibitor activity leads to inappropriate activation of multiple pathways, including the complement and contact systems and the fibrinolysis and coagulation systems. Reduced C1 inhibitor activity results in increased activation of plasma kallikrein-kinin system proteases and increased bradykinin levels. Bradykinin is felt to be the main mediator of symptoms in HAE. Patients with HAE have recurrent episodes of swelling of the extremities, abdomen, face, and upper airway. Angioedema involving the gastrointestinal tract can lead to intestinal wall edema, which results in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Laryngeal swelling is life-threatening and may lead to asphyxia. Common triggers of an attack include trauma, stress, infection, menstruation, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Laboratory testing including C4, C1 inhibitor level, and function is needed to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of HAE. The treatment of HAE has improved significantly in recent years with the availability of several safe and effective therapies. Several consensus guidelines have been created to further assist in the management of HAE patients. This review will provide an update on the classification, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, and diagnosis of HAE.
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Keywords: Allergy; C1 esterase inhibitor; angioedema; bradykinin; complement; edema; hereditary; immunology; kallikrein; swelling

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-11-01

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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