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Urticaria is a raised, red, itchy rash that appears on the skin. The raised marks in the rash are called weal. Each weal is short-lived, but the rash can move about. The rash normally disappears after a few days, but can sometimes last longer.
When urticaria lasts less than six weeks, it is described as acute. If it occurs daily, or more or less daily, for six weeks it is called chronic urticaria.
Acute urticaria is a common condition, and it affects one in five people at some point in their life. It is more likely to affect children. Chronic urticaria is much rarer, and affects one in every 1,000 people.
Most episodes of urticaria peak between 8 to 12 hours, then stop after 24 hours. The weal of urticaria is raised, and pink or red in colour. They are usually very itchy and range in size from a few millimetres to the size of a hand.
Individual weal normally fades after a few hours, but can be replaced by new ones elsewhere on the body. They may appear on just one part of the body or across a large part of it. The skin returns to normal as soon as the weal fades.
Urticaria vasculitis is a rare form of this condition. The weal is tender, last more than 24 hours and leave a bruise. They need to be urgently looked at by a dermatologist (skin specialist).
Around half of people with chronic (persistent) urticaria and a quarter of people with acute (short-term) urticaria also get a related condition called Angioedema.
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