Understanding HAE

Scott, a real HAE patient,
helps prevent his
attacks with CINRYZE

HAE Symptoms and Triggers

Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is a rare, potentially life-threatening disease. It can cause attacks of painful, disfiguring swelling in any part of the body. Living with HAE isn't always easy, but learning about the symptoms and keeping track of your HAE attacks can help you create a treatment plan with your doctor.

HAE symptoms

HAE symptoms can be very different from person to person. That means one person with HAE could experience symptoms with greater severity and frequency, or in different locations than someone else who also has HAE.

HAE symptoms can also change within the same person. For example, some women with HAE experience a shift in the frequency of their HAE attacks during various life stages, such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause. Patients with early-onset HAE tend to be more likely to suffer from a severe course of disease.

Common areas affected by HAE attacks

Face without a hereditary angioedema (HAE) attack


Face swelling during a hereditary angioedema (HAE) attack


Skin, or subcutaneous
Swelling of the skin usually affects the hands, face, feet or genitals. These attacks can be temporarily disfiguring and disabling and get in the way of everyday activities. These swelling attacks may be accompanied by redness, but the area usually doesn't itch. Before HAE is diagnosed, skin attacks are commonly misdiagnosed as allergic reactions.

Stomach without a hereditary angioedema (HAE) attack


Stomach swelling during a hereditary angioedema (HAE) attack


Stomach, or abdomen
HAE attacks in this area can cause mild to severe pain and be accompanied by vomiting and/or diarrhea. In one study, some patients experiencing untreated abdominal attacks had to stay in bed between 24 and 50 hours. Of people with HAE, 19–24% have reported undergoing unnecessary surgical procedures as a result of misdiagnosed abdominal attacks.

Throat without a hereditary angioedema (HAE) or laryngeal attack


Throat swelling during a hereditary angioedema (HAE) or laryngeal attack


Throat, or larynx
An attack that causes swelling in the throat, also called a laryngeal attack, can be frightening. Swelling in the throat can interfere with breathing, creating a potentially life-threatening situation. While laryngeal attacks occur less frequently than other types of attacks, they are the most serious. If you experience an HAE attack affecting your airway, seek emergency treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment guidelines recommend all HAE patients have an acute treatment option available in the event an HAE attack occurs. Click here to learn more about one option to treat HAE attacks in adults.

On average, an untreated patient will experience 2 to 4 attacks each month. Take your first step toward learning more about preventative therapy by talking with your doctor.

Build your doctor discussion guide

Triggers of an HAE attack

HAE attacks can be unpredictable. They can happen without any warning whatsoever, but some people have identified triggers that seem to set off their attacks. It’s important to remember that HAE can vary from person to person, so what triggers one person’s attacks can be very different from someone else who also has HAE.

Though each person will have a unique experience with HAE, some known triggers are:

  • Emotional stress
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Hormonal influences, like menstruation
  • Mechanical pressure from physical activities like typing or mowing the lawn

Keeping a journal of your attacks may help you identify your triggers, and recognize what types of activities and situations lead to your attacks.