Hives or urticaria are red, raised, itchy bumps that can come together forming larger welts or wheels. While transient, hives are intensely itchy. They are a result of irritation of the skin causing mast cells to release histamine and other mediators of inflammation. Hives are sometimes accompanied by swelling (angioedema) or shortness of breath. The potential causes of urticaria are numerous and may include foods, environmental allergens, medications, infections, various systemic diseases and physical stimuli (heat, pressure, etc). Frequently, no specific cause is found. Chronic urticaria can last for months and years and historically has been difficult to treat. Fortunately, newer more effective therapies are now available.
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