HAE – stands for Hereditary AngioEdema
Hereditary AngioEdema (HAE) is a rare genetic disorder. It is characterized by spontaneous and recurrent episodes of swelling (edema attacks) of the skin in different parts of the body, as well as in the airways and internal organs.(2,4)
Edema of the skin usually affects the extremities, the face, and the genitals. Patients suffering from this kind of edema often withdraw from their social lives because of the disfiguration, discomfort and pain these symptoms may cause. Almost all HAE patients suffer from bouts of severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by swelling of the intestinal wall.(5-7)
Edema of the throat, nose or tongue is particularly dangerous and potentially life-threatening and can lead to obstruction of the airway passages.(4,8-10)
Although there is currently no known cure for HAE, it is possible to treat the symptoms associated with edema attacks.
HAE affects about 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000 people worldwide.(2,11) There are an estimated 300-500 patients treated for HAE in Canada. (26) Experts believe that a lot of patients are still seeking the right diagnosis: although HAE is (in principle) easy to diagnose, it is frequently identified very late or not discovered at all. The reason HAE is often misdiagnosed is because the symptoms are similar to those of many other common conditions such as allergies or appendicitis. By the time it is diagnosed correctly, the patient has often been through a long lasting ordeal. It is estimated that there are upwards of 880 HAE patients in Canada. (1)