Chronic hives(urticaria), also known as urticaria, are batches of raised, red or white itchy welts (wheals) of various sizes that appear and disappear. While most cases of hives go away within a few weeks or less, for some people they are a long-term problem. Chronic hives are defined as hives that last more than six weeks or hives that go away, but recur frequently.

In most cases of chronic hives, a cause is never clearly identified. In some cases, chronic hives may be related to an underlying autoimmune disorder, such as thyroid disease or lupus.

Hives generally:

Appear as small round wheals, rings or large patches and may change shape
Itch and may be surrounded by a red flare
Occur in batches, and often appear on the face or the extremities
Individual hives can last from 30 minutes to 36 hours. As some hives disappear, new hives may develop.

About 40 percent of people with chronic hives also have angioedema. Signs and symptoms of angioedema include large welts or swelling of the skin that may occur around the eyes and lips, hands, feet, genitalia, and inside the throat. Swelling in the throat can obstruct breathing and requires emergency treatment. Angioedema may itch less than hives do, but can cause pain or burning.

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