Vibratory Angioedema: When Vibrations Cause Skin Hives

Could Your Occupation Be Causing Vibratory Angioedema, a Rare Skin Rash?

Vibratory angioedema is a form of hives.
Vibratory angioedema is a form of hives.. gokhan ilgaz/Getty Images

Vibratory angioedema is a rare form of chronic hives caused by a certain stimulus on the body. In this case, the stimulus is a strong vibration.

This condition has nothing to do with Angioedema (which is a type of swelling that is similar to hives, but Angioedema swelling is under the skin). Instead, vibratory angioedema is a form of physical uritcaria (physical hives on the surface of the skin that are often called welts).

Symptoms of Vibratory Angioedema

The hives caused by vibratory angioedema often develop where the skin has been in contact with vibration within 2 to 5 minutes of the exposure. The hives typically resolve within 30 minutes to 1 hour of stopping exposure to the vibration and characteristics of vibratory angioedema include:

  • Central wheals
  • Blanched skin
  • Raised rash (pruritus)
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Causes of the Skin Condition

Vibratory angioedema can be an inherited problem (known as a hereditary autosomal dominant disorder, where both parents must be carriers of the gene) or it can be an acquired response to a prolonged exposure to vibration.

It is an extremely rare condition in which the skin produces a hypersensitivity reaction to an extended exposure of unremitting vibration.

Examples of stimuli that can cause vibratory angioedema in people prone to the condition include:

  • Operating a pneumatic hammer or machinery
  • Riding or pushing a lawnmower
  • Riding a motorcycle
  • Jogging
  • Rubbing vigorously with a towel

An October 2015 paper published in The American Journal of Case Reports, reported the case of a 70-year-old woman exhibiting symptoms of vibratory angioedema, including tongue and throat swelling, which was caused by intense snoring at night.

This may be a rare and under diagnosed condition that is in need of further study.

There are also some common at-risk occupations that may have higher incidences of the skin condition, based on the nature of the type of equipment frequently used. These at-risk occupations include:

  • Jack-hammer operator
  • Carpenter
  • Machinist
  • Metal grinder
  • Landscaper

Treatment of Vibratory Angioedema

The main treatment of vibratory angioedema is avoidance of the vibratory stimulus. The hives can be itchy, but usually fade away on their own within 30 minutes to an hour of exposure to the stimulus. To stay safe, individuals prone to vibratory angioedema should avoid any stimulus that has previously caused a reaction for that person.

If you notice symptoms of a rash or hives after coming into contact with a vibratory stimulus, please consider taking the following actions:

  • Consult a qualified doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
  • Your doctor should conduct urine and blood tests to find out whether you are infected with angioedema or not.
  • Immediately stop using the offending stimulus and consider avoiding its further use in the future.
  • Epinephrine (an epi-pen) is a life saving drug especially in case of acquired angioedema, discuss with your doctor to see if you need to carry an epi-pen with you.
  • Certain therapies of antihistamines may be useful, but discuss with your doctor before using any over the counter medications.
  • For snoring induced vibratory angioedema, continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) may be helpful.


Grattan, Clive and Anne Kobza Black. "Urticaria and Angioedema." Dermatology. 2nd. Ed. Jean Bolognia. New York: Mosby, 2008: 261-76.

Habif, Thomas. "Urticaria and Angioedema." Clinical Dermatology, 4th Edition. Ed. Thomas Habif, MD. New York: Mosby, 2004. 129-61.

Zuberbier, Torsten and Marcus Maurer. “Urticaria: current opinions about etiology, diagnosis and therapy.” Acta Derm Venereologica. 87(2007): 196-205.

Kalathoor, Ipe. “Snoring-Induced Vibratory Angioedema.The American Journal of Case Reports 16 (2015): 700–702.PMC. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

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