Struggling with Hives
If you’ve ever experienced hives, you know how frustrating this condition can be. Characterized by itchy spots that seem to appear out of nowhere, hives can cause a lot of discomfort and anxiety. To help you better understand this condition, we sat down with California Skin Institute’s Joe Gorelick, who shared some of his expertise which he accumulated over 15 years of helping patients.
Q: What exactly are hives?
Joe Gorelick: Basically hives are an immune system response that manifests as bumps or lesions on the skin. Sometimes they can be itchy, but not necessarily. They can show up anywhere on the body. In some cases it’ll be localized to just one area, while some patients will present with hives all over the body. Overall, hives is generally a signal that your immune system is perceiving something as a threat and is trying to combat it.
Q: What causes hives?
Joe Gorelick: There are several things that can cause hives. In some cases it’s an allergic reaction to something that the patient ingested. Like a food or medication. There are also more serious cases, where hives are just a symptom of a deeper problem, like a disease or an autoimmune response.
Q: How do you diagnose hives?
Joe Gorelick: The first thing we have to figure out is if the symptoms are due to an allergy. So, we can get a detailed history from the patient to determine if there is an obvious cause such as a new medication or food. We can also test for allergies. If we don’t find any obvious triggers, then we have to look deeper to see if there is an underlying health condition that’s the culprit.
If a patient presents with hives, it means that the body is perceiving a threat. So it’s important to dig deep and figure out what’s going on. In some cases, we may not be able to find the root cause, just because there are so many possible reasons for the condition. But at least we’ll be able to rule out more serious conditions and help the patient manage the symptoms.
Q: What are some of the treatments California Skin Institute uses?
Joe Gorelick: There are several treatment options that our providers can use. For example, some patients will benefit from the use of oral antihistamines to bring symptoms under control. In more severe situations, we may need to rely on injectable treatments.
Q: What would you suggest for someone who thinks they have hives?
Joe Gorelick: I would say not to wait too long before seeing a provider. Sometimes patients think they can just ride it out, but this strategy can easily backfire. It’s your body telling you there is something wrong. So it’s very important to drill into the reasons.
It could be just an allergy to some new food you tried, or it could be a sign of a serious illness. Your body is trying to communicate with you and it’s up to you to listen to it. So schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible, or you can always call one of the California Skin Institute practices and see one of our providers.
But if you wait too long you’re taking the chance that the symptoms will get worse.
(Joe Gorelick, MSN, FNP-C has been helping patients treat hives and other skin conditions for over 15 years. He’s involved in all aspects of medical and cosmetic dermatology and regularly volunteers his free time to help with skin cancer screenings in community settings.)
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