Close your eyes. Now imagine what it would be like to have a hand swell to two, three, or four times as large as it normally is. It could happen to your leg, or abdomen or even your face. Some people have to deal with a rare medical disease that is exactly that.
This rare disease is hereditary angioedema (HAE).
Frequently, the symptoms are deceptive. Doctors often mistakenly diagnose the sudden onset of swelling as appendicitis or gall bladder attacks. The misdiagnoses and extreme nature of HAE have caused people to have multiple surgeries and organs removed without the incidents abating.
When the swelling happens, the affected area becomes very painful. The pressure builds and the skin stretches to almost absurd degrees. The triggers of an attack are not always clear. Some believe that stress or environmental factors are involved. Doctors have also noted that surgery and illnesses have preceded attacks in some cases.
We know that HAE is passed down within families. But, it can appear without a family history as well. It is caused by a dysfunctional protein called C1 inhibitor. The blood vessels are constricted which results in swelling in the area.
HAE is a potentially deadly disease if it affects the neck or chest. In those areas, the swelling may disrupt breathing. Episodes can come on suddenly resulting in fear and panic in everyone around.
There is hope, though. Treatment is available to some. However, the series of shots cost thousands and even ten thousand dollars. There may be ways to reduce the cost with more research. There may even be new alternatives yet to be discovered.