Hereditary angioedema is a rare inherited disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of the accumulation of fluids outside of the blood vessels, blocking the normal flow of blood or lymphatic fluid and causing rapid swelling of tissues in the hands, feet, limbs, face, intestinal tract, or airway. Usually, this swelling is not accompanied by itching, as it might be with an allergic reaction. Swelling of the gastrointestinal tract leads to cramping. Swelling of the airway may lead to obstruction, a potentially very serious complication. These symptoms develop as the result of deficiency or improper functioning of certain proteins that help to maintain the normal flow of fluids through very small blood vessels (capillaries). In some cases, fluid may accumulate in other internal organs. The severity of the disease varies greatly among affected individuals.
The most common form of the disorder is hereditary angioedema type I, which is the result of abnormally low levels of certain complex proteins in the blood (C1 esterase inhibitors), known as complements. They help to regulate various body functions (e.g., flow of body fluids in and out of cells). Hereditary angioedema type II, a more uncommon form of the disorder, occurs as the result of the production of abnormal complement proteins.
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