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Dermatographism is a skin condition that causes redness, inflammation, welts, and itching when the skin is exposed to pressure, rubbing, or scratching. This condition is also called skin writing, dermographia, or dermatographic urticaria.

Symptoms of Dermatographism

Dermatographism is a common, benign skin condition that is not transmissible or life-threatening. Signs of dermatographism can develop within minutes of skin irritation and typically resolve within half an hour. The symptoms of dermatographism include:

  • Raised, red marks on the skin
  • Hive-like welts
  • Itching
  • Swelling

The symptoms of dermatographism typically appear and resolve relatively quickly. However, patients can live with dermatographism for months to years.

Causes of Dermatographism

Dermatographism symptoms arise from abnormal levels of histamine release from mast cells (that belong to the immune system) within the skin. Although the specific causes of dermatographism are unknown, some common triggers include:

  • Exercise
  • Exposure to heat or cold
  • Tight clothing
  • Vibration
  • Stress

A person with dermatographism may also have an external allergy, though this is uncommon.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dermatographism

At Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology, your physician can diagnose dermatographism by asking questions about your medical history and symptoms. Your physician may also perform a skin test with a tongue depressor to scratch or press on the skin over your arm or back. The area of the test will be observed closely for the next few minutes for welts, redness, itching, or raised marks. Dermatographism itself typically does not leave any lasting marks or scars, but excessive scratching due to possible itching may cause the skin to break. Your physician will likely recommend the daily use of non-allergic moisturizers or a daily antihistamine to curb the symptoms of dermatographism.

Next steps

If you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call 512-382-1933 or email to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment

Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21

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