Dermographism in Adult
Alerts and Notices
SynopsisDermographism is the most common form of physical urticaria and manifests as an exaggerated wheal and flare reaction of the skin induced by pressure. In dermographism, inadvertent stroking or rubbing of the skin will result in corresponding linear wheals. The wheals usually persist for about 15-30 minutes. The condition is usually asymptomatic, but some forms are associated with pruritus. The exact cause of dermographism is unknown, but clinically it appears similar to urticaria. Agents that are known to cause or exacerbate urticaria also may cause dermographism (eg, angiotensin converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors).
An increased incidence has been reported during pregnancy and in individuals with Behçet syndrome, thyroid disorders, infections, and atopic dermatitis. Dermographism affects approximately 2%-5% of the population and is more common in young adults.
L50.3 – Dermatographic urticaria
7632005 – Dermographism
Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls
- Early contact dermatitis may present with linear urticarial lesions.
- Delayed pressure urticaria may develop up to hours after the inciting pressure and is usually painful, while dermographism develops over minutes and is usually asymptomatic or pruritic.
- Acute or chronic urticaria
- Other physical urticarias
- Urticaria pigmentosa
- Systemic mastocytosis
- Lesions from strongyloidiasis (cutaneous larva currens) may resemble rapidly moving urticarial wheals.
- The early stages of bullous pemphigoid may manifest with urticarial plaques.
Drug Reaction DataBelow is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.
Patient Information for Dermographism in Adult
OverviewDermographism, which means "skin writing," is a condition in which your skin responds to light scrapes or scratches by quickly forming raised red flare-ups, known as wheals, in the same shape as the scratches. The flare-ups usually go away on their own within 30 minutes to 2 hours, but they can be itchy and visually bothersome. This type of skin rash is a unique form of hives.
The main cause of dermographism is not entirely known, but may be related to local histamine that is released under the skin, causing the affected skin area to swell. The condition only affects the skin and is not dangerous; however, it can be a major annoyance for the patient.
Who’s At RiskDermographism mainly occurs in young adults, and on average lasts for up to 6.5 years. Between 2% and 5% of the general population has this condition.
Signs & SymptomsIf a light scrape or scratch to the skin quickly results in a raised red rash in the same pattern as the scratch, dermographism should be suspected. The reaction may be itchy, but it should resolve on its own within 2 hours.
If the flare-up lasts several hours to days, the patient may have a form of the condition known as delayed dermographism, in which the reaction lasts longer and may also be painful, sometimes described as a "burning sensation."
Symptoms of dermographism may also be seen in response to infection or after taking certain prescription drugs, such as penicillin.
Self-Care GuidelinesLuckily, the skin rashes of dermographism go away on their own, so the best thing to do during a flare-up is to avoid scratching and wait for the swelling and redness to calm down. Over-the-counter antihistamines may be taken to help relieve symptoms faster. Avoiding scraping and scratching of any kind can help prevent flare-ups.
When to Seek Medical CareSeek medical help if you have unbearable itching, burning, or pain during flare-ups.
TreatmentsAntihistamines may be prescribed for dermographism to help get rid of itching; however, if antihistamines do not help, even after an increased dosage, other medicines may be considered by your physician. Currently, there is no cure for dermographism.
Dermographism in Adult