5 Skin Disorders You Might Mistake for Hives

Red or swollen, itchy bumps on your skin could be hives, or it could easily be a similar-looking condition. See more pictures of skin problems.

Self-diagnosis of skin disorders is never an easy task. It's made more difficult when different conditions have similar symptoms. Hives, for example, come in two types -- acute and chronic -- and are usually caused by your body releasing histamine in reaction to an allergy. Histamine is an organic compound in your body responsible for triggering the inflammatory process. With hives, the histamine causes fluid to release from the blood vessels and makes the skin swell [source: Rockoff].

It can be easy to mistake hives for other disorders because the allergy triggers can be difficult to find. Another problem with diagnosing hives is that the symptoms are relatively generic -- red, itchy welts on your skin are a common symptom among many skin disorders.

Hives can be caused from allergens as well as physical and environmental factors such as stress, heat, sunlight or water. Untreated, the symptoms can last from a couple hours up to six weeks. As we'll see throughout this article, many skin disorders share these causes and triggers, so close attention to detail is key when figuring out the mystery of your skin disorder.

Because blood and allergy tests exist to confirm hives at the doctor's office, and antihistamines are readily available over the counter, determining the diagnosis and appropriate treatment might seem easy. However, since many of these disorders show the same symptoms and have different treatment methods, it's important to be aware of the similarities and differences between them. So, read on to learn about five common skin disorders that may look and feel a lot like hives.