Chronic spontaneous urticaria, formerly also known as chronic idiopathic urticaria and chronic urticaria (CU), is more common than previously thought. At any time, 0.5-1% of the population suffers from the disease (point prevalence). Although all age groups can be affected, the peak incidence is seen between 20 and 40 years of age. The duration of the disease is generally 1-5 years but is likely to be longer in more severe cases, cases with concurrent angioedema, in combination with physical urticaria or with a positive autologous serum skin test (autoreactivity). Chronic spontaneous urticaria has major detrimental effects on quality of life, with sleep deprivation and psychiatric comorbidity being frequent. It also has a large impact on society in terms of direct and indirect health care costs as well as reduced performance at work and in private life. In the majority of patients, an underlying cause cannot be identified making a causal and/or curative treatment difficult. Nonsedating H₁-antihistamines are the mainstay of symptomatic therapy, but treatment with licensed doses relieves symptoms effectively in < 50% of patients. Although guideline-recommended updosing up to fourfold increases symptom control in many patients, a substantial number of patients have only little benefit from H₁ -antihistamines. Consequently, there is a great need for new therapeutic strategies.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.