Dermatographic urticaria

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Dermatographic urticaria
Other names: Dermographism, dermatographism, dermatographia, skin writing
Dermatographic urticaria is sometimes called "skin writing".
SpecialtyDermatology, allergy and immunology

Dermatographic urticaria is a skin disorder and one of the most common types of urticaria, affecting 2–5% of the population.[1][2]

Signs and symptoms

The condition manifests as an allergic-like reaction, causing a warm red wheal to appear on the skin. As it is often the result of scratches, involving contact with other materials, it can be confused with an allergic reaction, when in fact it is the act of being scratched that causes a wheal to appear. These wheals are a subset of urticaria (hives), and appear within minutes, in some cases accompanied by itching. The first outbreak of urticaria can lead to other reactions on body parts not directly stimulated, scraped, or scratched. In a normal case, the swelling will decrease without treatment within 15–30 minutes, but, in extreme cases, itchy red welts may last anywhere from a few hours to days.


Symptoms are thought to be the result of histamine being released by mast cells on the surface of the skin. Due to the lack of antigens, histamine causes the skin to swell in affected areas.[3] If the membrane that surrounds the mast cells is too weak it will easily and rapidly break down under physical pressure, which then causes an allergic-like reaction.[3]

Symptoms can be caused or induced by:[3]

  • stress
  • tight or abrasive clothing
  • watches
  • glasses
  • heat
  • cold
  • pressure on exposed skin
  • infection
  • diet [4]
  • air currents : air flow moving hairs on skin surface[citation needed]

The underlying cause of dermographism is not known, and it can last for many years without relief. The condition may subside and be effectively cured; however, it is often a lifelong ailment.[dubious ] It is not a life-threatening disease, and it is not contagious.[citation needed]

Dermographism may occur in mastocytosis (systemic mast cell proliferation).


This condition is diagnosed by a health care provider writing or drawing on the patient's skin with a tongue depressor or other implement, to see whether a red wheal appears soon afterwards.[5]


Dermographism can be treated by substances which prevent histamine from causing the reaction (i.e. an antihistamine). These may need to be given as a combination of H1 antagonists, or possibly with an H2-receptor antagonist such as cimetidine.[6][7]

Over-the-counter vitamin C, 1000 mg daily, increases histamine degradation and removal.[8][further explanation needed]

Refraining from taking hot baths or showers may help if the condition is generalized (i.e. all over), as well as possibly for localized cases (i.e. in a specific area). If taking hot showers helps, it may be a condition called shower eczema. If it affects mainly the head, it may be psoriasis. In rare cases, allergy tests may uncover substances the patient is allergic to.[7]

While cromoglycate, which prevents histamine from being released from mast cells, is used topically in rhinitis and asthma, it is not effective orally for treating chronic urticaria.[citation needed]

See also


  1. Jedele, Kerry B.; Michels, Virginia V. (1991). "Familial dermographism". Am. J. Med. Genet. 39 (2): 201–203. doi:10.1002/ajmg.1320390216. PMID 2063925.closed access
  2. Kontou-Fili, K.; Borici-Mazi, R.; Kapp, A.; Matjevic, L.J.; Mitchel, F.B. (1997). "Physical urticaria: classification and diagnostic guidelines. An EAACI position paper". Allergy. 52 (5): 504–513. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb02593.x. PMID 9201361.closed access
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fadden, Helen (2016-09-27). "Dermographia (Dermographism- Causes, Symptoms, Treatment)". online. Helen Fadden. Archived from the original on 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  4. Brown, Keith (2019-03-05). "Dermographia Diet". online. Keith Brown. Archived from the original on 2019-03-08. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  5. "Dermatographia - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic". Archived from the original on 2019-09-22. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  6. Wozel G, Sahre EM, Barth J (1990). "[Effectiveness of combination treatment with H1-(Tavegyl) and H2-antagonists (Altramet) in chronic/chronically-recurrent urticaria]". Dermatologische Monatsschrift (in German). 176 (11): 653–659. ISSN 0011-9083. OCLC 1566270. PMID 2083605.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Negro-Álvarez, J.M.; Miralles-López, J.C. (2001). "Chronic idiopathic urticaria treatment". Allergologia et Immunopathologia. 29 (4): 129–132. doi:10.1016/S0301-0546(01)79045-3. ISSN 0301-0546. PMID 11674926.closed access
  8. Johnston, C. S.; Martin, L. J.; Cai, X. (1992-04-01). "Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis". Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 11 (2): 172–176. ISSN 0731-5724. PMID 1578094.

External links

External resources