The main symptom of angioedema is swelling that develops below the skin's surface.

Swollen skin

Swelling caused by angioedema can develop suddenly or come on gradually over a few hours. It normally lasts a few days.

The swelling most often affects the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • area around the eyes
  • lips and tongue
  • genitals

In severe cases, the inside of the throat or bowel can be affected.


Often, the swelling occurs with a raised, itchy rash called urticaria (hives).

The rash will usually settle in a few days.

Otherwise, the skin over the swelling may feel tight and painful but look normal. 

Other symptoms

Less common symptoms of angioedema include:

When to get medical advice

See your GP if you have episodes of swelling that affect your skin or lips and you're not certain of the cause.

You may need to have some tests to determine the cause. Read more about tests for angioedema.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if you, or someone with you, has swelling and:

  • sudden or worsening breathing problems
  • feels faint or dizzy
  • passes out or collapses 

These are signs of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you, or the person who's ill, have been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector for this, use it while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Page last reviewed: 24/08/2016

Next review due: 24/08/2019