One of the most common signs of hereditary angioedema (HAE) is severe swelling. This inflammation typically affects the extremities, face, airway, and abdomen. Many people compare the swelling to hives, but the swelling is under the surface of the skin rather than on it. There’s also no rash formation.

If left untreated, severe swelling can be life-threatening. It can cause airway blockages or swelling of the internal organs and intestines. Take a look at this slideshow to see examples of HAE swelling cases.

Swelling of the face can be one of the first and most noticeable symptoms of HAE. Doctors often recommend on-demand treatment for this symptom. Early treatment is especially important because this type of swelling may also involve the throat and upper respiratory tract.

Swelling on or around the hands can make day-to-day tasks more difficult. If your hands become swollen, talk to your doctor about taking medications or trying a new one.

Swelling on or around the eyes can make it hard, or sometimes impossible, to see clearly.

The lips play an important role in communication. Swelling of the lips can be painful and make eating and drinking more difficult.