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What Is Dermatographia?

Dermatographia is a condition also known as skin writing. When people who have dermatographia lightly scratch their skin, the scratches turn into a raised wheal similar to hives. These marks usually disappear within 30 minutes. The cause of dermatographia is unknown, but it can be triggered in some people by infections, emotional upset or medications such as penicillin. Most people who have dermatographia don't seek treatment. If your signs and symptoms are especially bothersome, your doctor may recommend allergy medications such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Symptoms of dermatographia

Signs of dermatographia occur when your skin gets scratched. However, symptoms don’t appear on their own. Instead, these are reactions to scratches themselves. These symptoms can appear for the first time without warning.The symptoms of dermatographia may include:

  • redness
  • raised marks on the skin that look like writing
  • deep wounds
  • itchiness
  • swelling, or inflammation

Symptoms usually last for about 30 minutes at a time. In rare cases, symptoms last for a day or longer. However, the condition of dermographism itself can last for months or years.Symptoms may also worsen in extreme temperatures. Hot and cold, dry weather can increase the incidence of dermographism. Warm water from hot showers, baths, and saunas can also aggravate symptoms.


The consensus among medical professionals is that dermatographia is an allergic reaction when specific antibodies are released in response to scratching, pressure, or mild irritation of the skin. This response prompts the release of histamines, which cause the welts.In general, researchers do not expect to find a strong genetic link to dermatographia, although 14 percent of those surveyed in a recent study reported a family history of the condition.Skin writing is often seen in young adults.

The following factors may make the condition worse:

  • exercise
  • heat
  • cold
  • stress
  • alcohol use


Your doctor can diagnose dermatographia with a simple test. He or she will draw a tongue depressor across the skin of your arm or back to see if a red, swollen line or a welt (wheal) appears within a few minutes.

What to do

Eat fresh, organic, and whole foods as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, nuts, etc., staying away from processed food and sugar. Especially sugar! That will definitely trigger itching. Basically, eating foods that are anti-inflammatory are your best choice.
Drink lots of water! No soda or sugary drinks, and limit alcohol intake as that increases redness and is dehydrating. Make sure your water is filtered, just in case the tap water is contaminated. Drinking tons of clean water is one of the most helpful things you can do for your skin and overall health. That, and taking lots of deep breaths, making sure you’re breathing deeply all day.
Exercise and get lots of rest. Yoga, jumping on a fitness trampoline, and walking is important to get your heart rate up and also to stretch.
If itching gets really bad, use a cold compress in the area where it started, or run cold water over it. Don’t scratch! Because then it spreads all over, along with the welts.

Individuals have differing experiences with dermatographia. For some people, it resolves completely within a few months, and for others it continues for years. Some reports suggest that, for many people, the condition either disappears or stabilizes enough to no longer be a problem within 1 to 2 years.