What is Quincke's Edema?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2016
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Quincke's edema is a form of localized swelling of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by a vascular reaction, where the blood vessels swell and begin leaking fluid into the neighboring tissues. This phenomenon is commonly observed around the face and throat and can also occur around the genitals and in other areas of the body. Treatment is dependent on the cause, and there are several things that can lead to an outbreak of Quincke's edema. It is imperative to provide treatment, as sometimes the swelling can cause airway obstruction.

Some people develop Quincke's edema in response to allergies or as a reaction to medication, in which case it may be accompanied with the development of hives, as well as the tell-tale swelling. Patients can also experience this medical condition as a result of inherited traits predisposing them to vascular reactions. The swelling can take minutes to hours to develop and may be accompanied with pain, soreness, discomfort, and a feeling of fullness and pressure.

In Quincke's edema, the leaking blood vessels can cause the release of large volumes of fluid into the tissues where the reaction is occurring. The skin can look puffy and may feel hot or appear reddish. If the edema occurs in or around the throat, symptoms like severe difficulty breathing, wheezing, and stridor can develop. In cases where the airway becomes constricted by the swelling, the patient needs immediate medical attention to avoid respiratory arrest.


A quick physical examination can allow a doctor to diagnose a patient with Quincke's edema. A patient history will be taken to learn more about the causes so the doctor can provide an appropriate treatment, as treatment options are variable. If no known cause can be readily identified and the patient is in distress, intubation may be recommended to keep the airway open and the patient may be provided with steroid medications to bring down the swelling as quickly as possible while tests are performed to explore the patient's condition more carefully.

People with a history of Quincke's edema or individuals who are at risk for it because of genetic conditions may want to consider noting this on a medical alert card. Having this information in a crisis situation can help care providers when it comes to making decisions about treatment for patients who may not be able to communicate. Alerting friends, coworkers, and family to the early signs of distress and telling them how to respond to emergencies will also enable people get the help they need as promptly as possible.


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