What are the causes of dermographism?

Written by danny djeljosevic
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Dermographism, or dermatographic urticaria, is a skin condition where pressure upon the skin creates welts that resemble the way the skin is touched, appearing as if someone is writing on the skin.


Dermographism is an offshoot of urticaria, or hives. Rubbing the skin even slightly will create red raised welts accompanied by itching, swelling and discomfort. The welts will form according to how the skin is rubbed, making it look as if someone has written on the body.

The welts are usually harmless and normally disappear within two hours, but there is a possibility in rare cases that the effects will appear slowly and take hours and even days to fade from the skin.

The condition itself can last any amount of time, from a few months to a year. In some cases dermographism never goes away.


Dermographism can affect any gender, race or age, but most often occurs in young adults in their 20s and 30s. The reason for its occurrence is unknown. However, there are numerous elements that can trigger a breakout including environmental factors such as temperature, sunlight and pressure, along with personal factors such as stress and emotion.

The likelihood of developing dermographism can increase based on heredity, allergies and the presence of other itchy skin conditions.


Determining the cause of one's dermographism can prove arduous due to all the potential allergens one can encounter on a daily basis and the possibility that it might not even be a physical stimulus causing the reaction. If the cause is an allergen, one can simply avoid said allergen and thus prevent further outbreaks.

The reaction itself is the result of the immune system releasing histamine into the skin, so a doctor can prescribe antihistamines to relieve allergic reactions if they prove more severe than average the average outbreak.


Besides avoiding the allergen in question, people suffering from dermographism can prevent a reaction by keeping out of the sun and avoiding anything that can irritate the skin such as certain kinds of fabric and soaps.

Taking proper care of the skin can also help avoid a reaction. Scratching will only make the condition worse, so moisturising can keep the skin from becoming dry and itchy.

Life with dermographism

Even though dermographism can last for an indefinite amount of time, the condition is mostly harmless save for the discomfort of itching and swelling. Thus, it is possible for those who suffer from dermographism to live otherwise normal, healthy lives.

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