Recognizing the Onset of HAE Attacks

Attacks of hereditary angioedema (HAE) may occur suddenly and without warning. However, many people with HAE notice symptoms at the very early stage of an attack. These symptoms are called a prodrome or prodromal symptoms.

Some common prodromal symptoms reported by people with HAE may include sudden mood changes, rash, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, extreme fatigue, or a tingling sensation of the skin where the swelling will begin. Some people with HAE notice these symptoms minutes or hours before an attack, while others could feel them a day or two before a full attack begins.

HAE attacks can be extremely serious, and may require immediate medical attention. The following symptoms can indicate a serious situation:

  • Throat swelling can block the airway and is therefore life-threatening; such attacks require immediate emergency care. Some of the symptoms of throat swelling may include a hoarse voice or laryngitis, difficulty in swallowing, a feeling of tightness, and voice changes. If you experience this type of attack, call your local emergency number.
  • Intestinal swelling can cause intense, "colicky" abdominal pain that can progress to vomiting and diarrhea. Intestinal swelling is often misdiagnosed as an abdominal disorder, such as appendicitis, a bowel rupture, or an obstruction. An increase in white blood cell count during an attack can make an accurate diagnosis difficult.

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Identifying potential triggers

Even though HAE attacks are often unpredictable, some are triggered by stress, hormones, and even medications. See why it’s important for you to identify and avoid potential triggers.

Treating HAE

As a person with HAE, you need to recognize the importance of becoming your own advocate, recognizing and monitoring symptoms, learning about treatment, and working with your doctor. Learn more about treating HAE.