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Information About Angioedema Pathophysiology

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The final common pathway for the development of angioedema seems to be the activation of the bradykinin pathway. This peptide is a potent vasodilator, leading to rapid accumulation of fluid in the interstitium. This is most obvious in the face, where the skin has relatively little supporting connective tissue, and edema develops easily. Bradykinin is released by various cell types in response to numerous different stimuli; it is also a pain mediator.

Various mechanisms that interfere with bradykinin production or degradation can lead to angioedema. ACE inhibitors block the function of kininase II, the enzyme that degrades bradykinin. In hereditary angioedema, bradykinin formation is caused by continuous activation of the complement system due to a deficiency in on of its prime inhibitors, C1-esterase inhibitor (C1INH), and continuous production of kallikrein, another process inhibited by C1INH. This serine protease inhibitor (serpin) normally inhibits the conversion of C1 to C1r and C1s, which - in turn - activate other proteins of the complement system. Additionally, it inhibits various proteins of the coagulation cascade, although effects of its deficiency on the development of hemorrhage and thrombosis appear to be limited.

There are three types of hereditary angioedema:

- Type 1 - decreased levels of C1INH (85%);
- Type 2 - normal levels but decreased function of C1INH (15%);
- Type 3 - no detectable abnormality in C1INH, occurs in an X-linked dominant fashion and therefore mainly affects women; it can be exacerbated by pregnancy and use of oral contraceptives (originally described by Bork et al in 2000, exact frequency uncertain);

Angioedema can be due to antibody formation against C1INH; this is an autoimmune disorder. This acquired angioedema is associated with the development of lymphoma.

Consumption of foods which are themselves vasodilators such as alcohol or cinnamon can increase the probability of an angioedema episode in susceptible patients. If the episode occurs at all after the consumption of these foods, its onset may be delayed overnight or by some hours, making the correlation with their consumption somewhat difficult. The use of Ibuprofen may also increase the probability of an episode in some patients.

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