A new report has highlighted the challenges faced by people in the UK who are struggling to live with the itchy and sometimes disfiguring skin disease chronic spontaneous urticaria.

The report, carried out by Allergy UK and led and funded by Novartis, found more than half of people with CSU, a debilitating form of chronic itch, hives and angioedema, say they do not have control over their symptoms. Over 50% wait more than a year for a referral to see a specialist for a diagnosis, adding to the anxiety caused by the discomfort.

Among the key findings of the report, which is titled Wheals of Despair and surveyed 103 sufferers, nearly a quarter miss work at least once a month due to their symptoms. Nine out of 10 say that their sleep is affected by CSU, 46% feel like crying at least once a week, while 48% are unable to take part in usual social activities - 37% reporting that their sex life is restricted.

The report calls for the introduction of “national guidance and development of dedicated regional CSU patient pathways” and highlights the important role GPs with special interest in allergy can play in helping manage these patients.

The report quotes Sinisa Savic at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds as saying that over half of those with CSU “do not find any relief even with up to four times the licensed doses of antihistamines”. With over 50% of those participating in the survey reporting that their current treatment is not sufficiently managing their condition, “we owe it to our patients to explore new therapies”.

Publication of the study comes about three months after the European Commission approved the use of Novartis’asthma blockbuster Xolair (omalizumab) as an add-on therapy for the treatment of CSU in patients with inadequate response to H1-antihistamine treatment.