1 What is Dermatographia?

Dermatographia (skin writing) is a condition in which a slight scratch to the skin causes it to become red and a swollen wheal. It has a similar appearance to hives.

These marks tend to disappear within 30 minutes. Although the exact cause of dermatographia remains unknown, several factors like infection, certain medications and emotional stress can cause this condition.

Most people with this condition do not require treatment since symptoms can disappear on their own. Treatments that are available include allergy medications.

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2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of dermatographia include:

  • Raised, red lines: If you develop red, raised lines when scratching your skin, chances are that you have dermatographia. Usually, this disappears right away or within half an hour, but if it does not, consult your doctor right away.
  • Swelling: If you develop a slight swelling on your arms, legs, or other parts of your body upon scratching your skin, it is likely you are suffering from dermatographia. It remains unknown why this condition occurs, but it usually does not last for more than a short while. You can use a topical lotion to help alleviate some of the symptoms, including the itching sensation and resultant pain and irritation.
  • Inflammation: Dermatographia can also result in inflammation when the infected area of your body swells up in response to your skin being irritated. You can seek some pain relief by applying a topical lotion directly onto the affected section.
  • Hive-like welts: If merely itching your skin leads to hive-like welts, chances are that you are suffering from dermatographia. These welts should disappear after a short time, but if they do not, consult a doctor right away.
  • Itching: Frequent bouts of itching could be on account of various health complications, but an itching sensation that disappears after a short while and reoccurs often is an indication of dermatographia.

The signs and symptoms usually occur within a few minutes after the skin has been irritated and disappear within 30 minutes. In some rare cases, dermatographia may develop slowly and last longer than usual, ranging from several hours to several years. Consult a specialist right away if your welts and other skin rashes do not disappear within half an hour.

3 Causes

The exact cause of dermatographia remains unknown.

Dermatographia is believed to be a result of an allergic response. It is thought to be a delayed allergic reaction by your body and is often caused by various factors stemming from stress, heightened emotive states, and allergic reactions to certain substances.

Dermatographia can also be caused by allergic reactions to certain medications like penicillin. Sometimes simple things like rubbing from clothes or bed sheets can trigger symptoms.

4 Making a diagnosis

Diagnosis of dermatographia is determined by passing a tongue depressor across the skin (usually the arms or back) of a patient to check if a red, swollen line or welt (wheal) appears within a few minutes. If it does, this is an indication that you have dermatographia. Your doctor should advise you on a course of treatment, but will usually advise you to wait it out since the rashes and red lines should disappear right away.

5 Treatment

Treatment of dermatographia isn't required in most cases since symptoms can disappear on their own. Treatment for severe cases includes antihistamine medications that decrease swelling and itching. Consult your physician right away and make sure you get the right medication prescribed to you. Since dermatographia can also occur as a result of your body’s allergic reaction to certain substances, opting for medications that you are sensitive to can only serve to exacerbate your current situation. For this reason, you should seek a medical consultation with your physician rather than opt for over-the-counter medicine.

Examples of these medications include:

6 Prevention

The following can help reduce discomfort and prevent dermatographia:

  • Avoid harsh soaps, itchy clothes, and hot showers or baths which may worsen symptoms. It is wise to avoid new soaps since your body may not be used to them and can have an allergic reaction, causing dermatographia to flare up. But these symptoms should usually subside after a short while.
  • Avoid scratching the skin since it can worsen the symptoms of dermatographia. If you find yourself experiencing frequent bouts of itching on various parts of your body, it could be due to dermatographia. Try to avoid scratching your skin as it can raise painful welts and rashes all over. Apply a skin ointment or coconut oil to help alleviate the itching sensation.
  • Keep the skin well moisturized by using lotions and creams after baths. It is a good idea to moisturize your skin with skin creams and lotions since dry skin only facilitates dermatographia. Keeping the skin supple and moist should help prevent the condition to a certain extent.

7 Risks and complications

The risk factors for developing dermatographia include:

  • Being a teenager or young adult: At this age, your body is raging full of hormones, and you are at the stage where you develop sensitivity to certain substances. This can lead to you developing an allergic reaction to things such as new beauty products, new brands of soap, or new fabrics among others. So you are at a higher risk of developing dermatographia, but it should disappear after a short while. Make it a point to visit your doctor in case of frequent dermatographia outbreaks and get the right medications prescribed to you. While you can always go in for some of the over-the-counter medications to help alleviate symptoms, it is a better idea for your doctor to prescribe medication, as it can prove to be more effective In keeping your dermatographia down.
  • Having other skin conditions like dry skin or dermatitis: Dry skin can actually cause dermatographia to break out all over your body. This is why it is recommended you use various skin lotions and body oils to moisturize your body, as it can help prevent you from having to deal with dermatographia. While a skin moisturizer is no permanent cure for dermatographia, well-moisturized skin can help prevent it from flaring up all over your body.
  • Conditions that cause a frequent urge to scratch the skin: Scratching your skin frequently can result in dermatographia. Although there are various health conditions which can cause you to experience frequent itching all over, when your body raises welts and swells upon itching, it is almost always on account of dermatographia.

While this condition is not permanent and disappears on its own after a while, it nevertheless can pose a challenge to those already having to deal with various skin conditions, such as eczema. This is why it is a good idea to keep your skin well moisturized, as dry skin can cause dermatographia to flare up. Moreover, you need to consult a doctor if these symptoms do not disappear after a short while. At times, the welts can remain for a few hours or just a few minutes. But if you happen to suffer from chronic dry skin as well, then these marks and symptoms may last longer. So be sure to consult a doctor to run a few tests to check and see if the dermatographia is on account of you being allergic to certain substances.

Make sure that you keep your doctor informed of your medical history as well as your current diet plan. Ask your doctor to run a full panel of allergy tests to help determine if you are allergic to some substances. Once you have figured out which substances you are allergic to, you can avoid them and prevent your body from experiencing allergy-induced dermatographia. More often than not, though, dermatographia breaks out as a result of sudden stress on your skin. For example, you may at times develop fresh rashes from shaving; this is on account of dermatographia.