Living with Cholinergic Urticaria (CU)

What is Cholinergic Urticaria?

Cholinergic Urticaria is one of the physical urticarias (hives) brought on by a physical stimulus. Although this stimulus might be considered to be heat, the actual precipitating cause is sweating. 


What Causes CU?

Currently it is unknown as to what causes Cholinergic Urticaria. Since CU is a very rare skin condition, very little is known about it. One common theory is that CU can be brought on suddenly by severe emotional distress, or a tragic event caused in a person's life. 

Once diagnosed, it is unable to determine how long a patient will have this condition. Some patients claim to have overcome CU after only one or two years. Some patients claim they continue to suffer from CU after three or more years.

Either way, it is a life changing diagnosis.

CU Symptoms

Those with CU break out in itchy hives in a matter of minutes whenever and wherever they are sweating. CU sufferers can also have these hives brought on from their tears, which can lead to severe swelling around the eyes. Individual hives can last anywhere from 30 or 60 minutes, to up to 2 or 3 days. Although, these certain itchy patches of skin will eventually go away, new ones can already be forming in other areas around the body. So, in severe cases of CU, the painful itching of these break-outs never really "goes away." Because hives are present at least somewhere on the body at all times. These break-outs can occur anywhere on the body, including the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. These itchy patches caused by CU go by many names such as hives, welts, wheels, bumps, dots, etc. And they come in all shapes and sizes.

The Appearance of CU Hives

There are a lot of different ways these CU break-outs can appear on the skin. Everybody is different and experiences their own unique skin irritations as a result of CU. Some individuals with CU can experience a wide range of different looking hives, while others may experience hives that form the same way each time. However, a patient with CU will almost never experience the same exact looking hives, with the same amount, and in the same location twice in their life. Even though a single person, who suffers from CU, can have tens or even hundreds of thousands of break-outs through out their life time.

No individual break-outs are ever the same looking, but each group of break-outs can be classified as looking a certain way on the skin. There are so many different forms, even though clearly recognized, we do not have names for every type of formation. But they can be described and seen in pictures. 


They are almost always red. They can be either raised or flat. They can look like any of the following: thousands of tiny pin point red dots, red 'pencil-eraser-sized' polka-dots, straight lines that look like scratches when you have not scratched that area, raised patches of blotchy skin that looks like cauliflower, tiny perfect circles, all red skin with no bumps at all that resembles sunburn, skin that looks like it has suffered severe burns, patches of circular red bumps that merge together to engulf an entire section of a limb or other body part, scaley 'alligator' looking skin, one single hive (usually on a finger or toe) with none other present at the time, huge welts, and more. They can also resemble bug bites, but the difference is, (besides the occasional "single hive" mentioned before, that usually only occurs on a finger or toe,) CU always comes in a large amount. And it happens everytime you sweat, wherever you are sweating. 


It is very easy to determine whether or not an individual suffers from CU. After only a few minutes of exercising, your skin will break out. And for those who have severe cases of CU, they are able to break out just by standing outside in the heat for less than two minutes. Anything that provokes sweating. Even simple household tasks like vacuuming or doing laundry.


Unfortunately, CU is a life altering, and sometimes debilitating condition. "Just getting out of bed everyday" isn't just hard, it is impossible sometimes. If you suffer from CU, you are completely unable to live a normal life. It confines many of it's sufferers to their homes with very limited physical activity. This usually results in the cause of other health problems, such as depression, weight gain from being unable to exercise, sleep loss from the itching, irritability, inability to bathe for more than five minutes, blood clots, kidney stones, all over pain due to long periods of immobility, anxiety and other nuerological disorders, and in severe cases may even result in the need of a care taker.