You may have never even heard of Dermatographic urticaria or Dermagraphism, yet this skin condition is noted in around 5% of people worldwide. Sufferers of the condition experience an inflammation when their skin is scratched or rubbed. This acute inflammation means that it’s possible to write or draw on a person with Dermographism’s skin, which has led to the condition being known colloquially as, “skin writing”.
Causes of Dermatographism
Unfortunately, the causes of Dermographism are currently a medical mystery and 95 per cent of chronic cases can never be solved. The Dermatographic urticaria has a tendency to go away after an unspecified period of time even if it has been left untreated; patients will experience relief from their symptoms in as mysterious circumstances as when they first developed the condition. Although scientists have noted that sufferer’s symptoms may well be exacerbated by prolonged contact to microwaves, more traditional triggers can be heat or cold, clothing or jewellery that rubs on the skin and stress. When the symptoms emerge, they generally cause great annoyance and frustration for a patient, sometimes making the inflammations even worse as a result.
Main symptom of Dermographism
As already mentioned, the main symptom of Dermographism is a raising of the skin around an aggravated area. This inflammation is caused by mast cells in the epidermis, which release histamines without the presence of antigens when irritated. Due to a weak membrane which surrounds these mast cells, the released histamines will cause the skin to swell. Many attribute this reaction to an allergic reaction, but this is not the case. Dermatographic urticaria can also flair up on skin that hasn’t been irritated after the initial swelling. In most cases, the symptoms will relieve themselves in between 15 minutes and half an hour, in severe cases however; the swelling has been known to remain for a period of days. Although suffers may feel that Dermographism is annoying or unsightly, they should remember that the condition can never become life-threatening in any way.
Detection of Dermographism
Dermographism can often be misdiagnosed as conditions such as lupus, rosacea and scabies because its main symptoms are easily confused with these other skin complaints. An individual with Dermographism will often find that they wake up in the mornings with raised red lumps all over their body from where their skin has become irritated whilst they have been asleep. The best way to diagnose Dermatographic urticaria is will a simple ballpoint pen. Two or three lines are traced across the patient’s skin with the pen tip; the doctor will then wait for five to seven minutes to see whether any swelling occurs. If swelling appears and then disappears again in around 15 to 30 minutes, medical staff will be confident that they can diagnose the condition as Dermatographic urticaria.
Prevention of Dermographism
If someone suffering from Dermographism is unable or unwilling to seek medical treatment, there are precautions they can take which will relieve their symptoms somewhat. Refraining from taking hot showers or baths has been known to limit the frequency of Dermographism flair-ups. In very rare cases, a sufferer’s Dermatographic urticaria is found to be caused by an allergy to a particular form of detergent. If you are diagnosed with the condition, it may be a good idea to start using hypo-allergenic washing powders and cleaning products, if only to eliminate an allergic reaction as the cause of your skin complaint.
Treatment of Dermographism
Although if you are diagnosed with Dermographism, you may have to accept that you may never overcome the condition, there are plenty of things a patient can do to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Antihistamines will usually be prescribed to prevent the histamine in the epidermis from causing the reaction. Scientists have recently developed an antibody named Omalizumab, which is beginning to be used in the treatment of Dermatographic urticaria. The drug has seen a high success rate when used in the treatment of Dermographism; some patients even reported that their symptoms had completely vanished after just one treatment. In the Far East, Dermatographic urticaria has been treated for hundreds of years with either Acupuncture or Chinese herbs, but scientific tests failed to prove whether or not these treatments are effective.