What Is Aquagenic Urticaria?
Aquagenic urticaria, or water allergy, is one of a number of forms of urticaria – such as aversions to the sun and extreme cold or exercise (which causes sweating, producing water) – that also causes the skin to break out in painful hives and welts.
Symptoms of aquagenic urticaria can occur after bathing, swimming, or walking in the rain. In some cases the skin may even break out when they sweat or emit tears. The solvents in the water or the temperature do not appear to influence the aquagenic urticaria reaction.
Lactose intolerance appears to increase the risk of developing aquagenic urticaria. A familial pattern appears to coexist due to this disease’s location on chromosome 2q21.
Females that have siblings that suffer from Bernard Soulier syndrome appear to have a significantly higher chance of developing aquagenic urticaria. This disease increases bleeding time by altering the body’s platelet count. This disease appears to be caused by a mutation on chromosome 3 which damages the body’s von Willebrand factor receptor.
Diseases such as polymorphous, atopy, cholinergic urticarial, light eruption, HIV infection as well as Bernard-Soulier syndrome appear to have a correlation with the appearance of aquagenic urticaria as well.
Only around 30-40 people worldwide are thought to have been diagnosed with the condition, which was first described in 1964.
Within minutes of the skin making contact with water, rashes appear which can last for anything from 15 minutes to two hours or more.
Although the exact triggers for the condition remain a mystery, many practitioners in the field believe that the rashes are caused by histamines – or chemicals – released by mast cells in the skin when by our bodies when we have a reaction, in this case when skin makes contact with water. The release of the histamines then causes the welts and rashes to appear on the skin.
They can appear in various shapes and sizes anywhere on the body, triggered by water of all types (such as tap/sea/bottled) any temperature. Others believe could be due to a toxic response when water touches the skin, or to an extreme sensitivity to ions in the water. Antihistamine drugs or steroids usually provide some relief for the itching caused by the welts, but will not cure aquagenic urticaria.
Ultra Violet light therapy treatment of the mast cells, in an effort to make them more resilient to water and therefore less likely to release histamine in sufferers of the condition, is another experimental treatment. According to the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, urticaria can affect one in five of the population at sometime in their lives.