Dermographism - The Skin Writing Allergy
Drawings On My Skin From Dermatographic Urticaria
Dermatographic urticaria or dermographism is a form of physical urticaria, usually due to underlying allergies or possibly diet. It's is my peculiar honour to suffer from this rather interesting form of hives. Dermographism means "skin writing" and anyone who has it knows why. Another interesting name that I've come across, rather less used, is the term Paper skin (It is also known as dermatographism, dermographia, contact or pressure urticaria, urticarian dermographism...)
Dermographia is an indirect allergic reaction to unknown allergens. No-one knows exactly what causes their dermographia - for example, I know that I am allergic to dust, dogs, fungal spores, cats, and pollen - but I don't know which, if any, triggers my dermographism. It is a chronic, underlying condition that cannot be avoided or mitigated completely. It has also been tentatively linked to underlying immune disorders such as Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease and others, but very little research has been done.
It is common in late-teens to early twenty year olds, children (especially young teens) and people in middle age. Triggers have been identified in some cases - certain strong antibiotics, for example - but other cases appear completely random. It can last months or years - for some people, it goes away after a few years, while for others it will last ten or twenty years, or for the rest of their life.
The hives are triggered by pressure on the skin - a finger, a watch, walking on gravel, scratches, bumping into corners, or pushing a trolley - even the repeated pressure of pushing books or papers around (for example, when shelving books or putting letters in envelopes, both regular activities at somepoint in my life).
This pressure causes a welt - urticaria, or 'hives' - to form where the pressure was applied. Which means I get welts in the shapes of my scratches. And it is from this that the name comes... for a quick doodle with a fingernail and a five or ten minute wait produces a message in full burning glory for the world to see. This mass of hives usually lasts around fifteen minutes (but can be visible for up to an hour).
For an allegedly common condition, there isn't that much information available and in this lens I have attempted to describe my condition, the causes, and how to live with it. I have met exactly one other person with this condition (that I know of) and hardly anyone who knows about it - which has led to a lot of soothing explanations for horrified onlookers! As for curing dermographism? I'm afraid I have only speculation to offer. I am seeing increasing evidence (from my research and from the stories people left here) pointing towards diet and digestion, gluten and other things in the system, but everyone's story is different.
It does have its better side. The ability to write on your own skin lends a certain fascinating aspect to Dermatographic Urticaria. For more about this, and the original artist read this section - and you can read a short article on exactly what Dermographism is like to live with, and what it means to me.
The last page has a list of all the websites, journal articles and stories that I link to, or read, in one handy list, as well as pictures of Dermographism from Flickr.
Dermographism is NOT contagious
At all. In any way. You can be genetically more likely to get it, or pass it on, but you cannot infect people.
Do You Have Dermographism? - There's a fire under my skin... Everyone is different, and most of the information for 'new' sufferers comes from people like you!
If you DO have dermographism, or know someone who does, please visit the next page to share your story for other people to learn from!
Well? When you write on your skin, do you get hives? (Assuming you aren't on medication)
Aaaaargh, why won't my back stop itching?
Looking back, I always had the signs of mild dermographism - itching on the soles of my feet when I walked on gravel, an itchy head which I blamed on nits (headlice) that I could never find - but I wasn't forced to take notice until the year I was eighteen.
In this year, I underwent, or already had, practically every connected factor:
- I had pale, sensitive skin; mild hayfever (which also increased); a family history of allergies (hayfever, eczema and psioriasis, among others);
- I was in my late teens approaching twenty; I had recently undergone a major course in antibiotics (maxillo-facial surgery) and was stressed due to the surgery, being unable to eat properly, and in my first full time year of university (along with part time work).
- I am also the eldest child - therefore less exposed to all the nasties other children bring home and more likely to develop allergies.
- I also, (possibly), have other associated conditions - the underlying immune issues possibly linked to various conditions such as gluten intolerance, IBS and celiac disease, and Asperger's Syndrome (which I do display many mild traits of).
So, I was in fact the perfect candidate.
I will also mention that I am, and was, not any kind of cleanliness fanatic - no excessive antibacterial ablutions, vaccinations, worries about cats sitting on my head, people coughing near me... I never bother putting anything on my cuts, which my cat gives me a lot of, and if I drop a piece of chocolate on the ground, well, it's proably still getting eaten. I am also very healthy - it's unusual if I take more than two sick days a year, and I don't get much in the way of infections.
In the months after my surgery I noticed that red marks appeared when I scratched. This was a curiosity that I attributed to some lingering imbalance in my body from dealing with the stress. However it swiftly escalated to unbearable itching, and soon I ended up with a mess of welts whenever I scratched or took my watch off, or ... or any of the hundred other things that happen every time you touch.
The welts begin as white marks on the skin, then red marks, which slowly welt up as hives form, then turn white and the skin around is red. It is worse on my body and decreases in visible reaction towards my extremities - my hands get red marks, but rarely the wheals.
This led to a search for both the reason and the cure - we identified my marks as urticaria, ('nettle rash') or more commonly, hives and tried various natural remedies to soothe it. All this time I was trying to attend lectures (and being terribly distracted by itching fits) and shelve books in the library (my hands suffered greatly) and discovering that I could write messages and distract people sitting next to me... (I am exceedingly mature).
And finally I tracked it down in one of our medical encyclopaedias - a brief paragraph describing my condition exactly, and naming it an allergic reaction. From that, it was off to the doctor.
The single other person that I have met with this condition, was a lady a couple of months ago in the library. She was european, late 40s (maybe 50s? People seem to always be older than I guess) and had the welts from scratching down her arm. It had just started up recently, and she didn't know what it was. So it can pop up spontaneously at all ages...
Physical urticaria is easily identified, but the literature usually stops there. One is allergic and one reacts to pressure. This condition is idiosyncratic and has many possible causes, and a variety of names. Treatment is vague and usually involves guesswork or antihistamines.
Watching Dermographism Emerge - Pictures over ten minutes - welts rising on my hand
I took the chance, after missing my antihistamines for a few days (around Christmas 2010), to finally take some photos. This is a picture of my hand, once every minute or two. The spiral was drawn with the blunt end of a pencil, and took about eight minutes to fully rise.
From top left... white lines, red lines, rising welts with red skin from the activity (and heat and itching) around them, and then the final result - welts and no red around it on the bottom right. This is known as the 'triple response of Lewis' (red line from capillary dilation; flare from arteriolar dilatation; wheal due to fluid).
It stayed there for about thirty minutes, and the white outline was visible for about quarter of an hour more. This isn't usual for me - but I haven't been off my antihistamines for months, so it seems it's changed a bit. Usually it lasts no more than 10-15 minutes.
Hands tend not to react as strongly or as visibly - I used to be unable to create a visible welt at all.
July 2011: I've been cutting out gluten (wheat, oats) and dairy (although not completely) from my diet, as well as managing a whole week without sugar (the horror), and I noticed my reactions seemed to be fading. I stopped taking Zyrtec (a.k.a. Cetirizine) for a couple of weeks to see if this was true, in case my antihistamine was just masking the symptoms. During that time, I started itching and getting welts and then after about a week, it faded away (Zyrtec takes two weeks to get out of your system, and you get withdrawal itchiness during that time as your histamine production sorts itself out and reacts to the remaining Zyrtec). Since then, I haven't seen a trace of my dermographism.
I still take my antihistamines a couple of times a week, because my cat makes me sneeze violently, but I'm needing them less and the dermographism is gone. Currently, I have three theories:
- I was intolerant to gluten and/or dairy (it seems that no matter what the problem, gut malfunctions always lead to dairy sensitivity) - however, I've not completely sure, and I've not actually managed to be completely anything-free. But I avoid gluten in my 'regular' diet, though I tend to give up on dairy!
- My environment is cleaner and there are fewer allergens around (it's the middle of winter. I still sneeze a lot indoors in rooms I always used to sneeze in, but less the rest of the time). This may mean it will return.
- My body has simply 'gotten over it' (another typical - and frustrating - trait of dermographism!)
- I'm simply less stressed/run down (it correlates to when I finally finished my postgrad degree and got to relax
August 2011: Aaagh itchies!
While it's still lying fairly low, the itching came back with a vengeance when I was sick, and again more recently. Itching red skin, and occasionnally lines - but no welts. I've also been sneezing a lot... so it could be because of spring. It could also be because I stopped being careful about what I ate and have been eating lots of dairy (no more gluten than usual, though).
Or again, it could be the #$$@#$# side effects of Zetop (cetirizine). I've been off it about four days (despite the sneezing) and I'll see what happens again.
That's me. The human lab rat!
January 2012: It got a bit worse again. I'm still on antihistamines, and it's still cetirizine (it just works best for me, and while it is annoying to come off it, I need it to control the sneezing as much as for the dermographism), but I usually take a pill every couple of days. Again, whether it's seasonal or diet related, or both, I still don't know.
May 2012 Ran out of pills. Welts lasting an hour. Send help!
But what I can say is that:
1, Moving to a place where I was generally less allergic to stuff helped.
2, Messing around with gluten, dairy and sugar did seem to cause changes, but I haven't been able to keep to a strict enough diet for at least three weeks to be absolutely certain which were to blame and how much they affected me.
3, Antihistamines are still the best way for me to keep it under control, and it generally only interferes when I either run out, or someone sees a red line on me and panics.
I've switched back to Loratadine (Claratyne) from Cetirizine (Zetop) as I was concerned about depression and actually being allergic (or something) to the damn stuff (specifically a higher rate of sneezing and sniffling when on it, and insane itching when I try and get OFF it, and of course the fact my dermographism seems to just be getting worse). I've had depression, attention span, fatigue and weight gain issues for the last two years or so (not obvious at the time, but looking back I'm pretty sure something has been going on. I have been on the Cetirizine for about four years now, I think. Maybe three!). Please note that this is anecdotal. None of these have been huge enough for other people to really notice, though I may just be good at covering them. And even if my problems are real, they may not be caused by this, (other possible causes: diet, lifestyle, SAD, it's all in my head, actual immune/medical issues such as my dermographism going crazy all on its own). But as it's the only medication I'm taking and I CAN'T not take antihistamines, this seems to be the best way to see if its having any unpleasant side effects.
Claratyne isn't as strong for me, which was one reason I changed from it to Cetirizine. But as I live in a much less allergenic house now (and have a better diet) it should usually be enough. I am having to take it more often (daily, whereas I had the Cetirizine every other day). I don't sneeze half as much.
After I've been on it about a month (to give the Cetirizine time to get completely out of my system and to have a chance to see what only being on Claratyne looks like), I'm going to try stopping it and seeing what my dermographism looks like.
I will note that I'd rather be on the Cetirizine than nothing. It stops me getting sore/itchy throats, the sneezing is manageable, and it's strong enough to suppress its own symptoms. The only problem is when I run out - and I aim to discover if that's Cetirizine's fault or not (although there's plenty of anecdotal data online to suggest it is). It seems to be much stronger and more effective than Claratyne (kicks in a lot faster and definitely stays in my system longer; one reason I didn't take it daily was I found that I built up a 'buffer' of excess antihistamine in my system). Of course, this makes it harder to get rid off, as well!
Jan 2013 I've been on Loratadine for nearly two months. It covered the withdrawal symptoms of Ceterizine, which now appears to be completely out of my system. The Loratadine isn't as strong, and I had to take it every day as it wore off quickly, taking three (or even four!) pills on very bad pollen days (which are thankfully pretty rare).
I stopped taking Loratadine around New Year's and have been off it for a full week. I have minor itching/burning, and redness (it looks like a rash when I scratch) but very few welts. It's aggravating enough that I want to take my pills again, but it's not as severe as expected.
- low allergens due to season and diet and environment (I am also not sneezing much), so my dermographism isn't flaring up, quite separately from antihistamine issues.
- the last of the antihistamine is still in my system / it takes my body a while to 'restock' the excess antihistamine, and it's all going to explode on me in another week.
- my worst problem was indeed the cetirizine (I mean, one hour welts is just ridiculous!) so now it's all settling down again.
I guess I'll find out!
(Oh, still avoiding bread and dairy, but not consistently, and minor traces in a lot of different things).
Later in Jan 2013
Now I'm off antihistamines and not reacting much, I've been able to identify some of my symptoms as acid reflux, not allergies (asthma-like breathing issues when lying down, chronic cough, sudden sore throats - I seem to get genuine allergy sore throat reactions as well, but I was able to identify that many of them aren't).
The Difference Between 'Normal' Hives and Dermographism
Is all urticaria a dermographic reaction?
Hives are a standard feature of allergic reactions. If you are getting hives, this means that there is a histamine reaction going on. How and when they appear is what determines exactly what you are suffering from.
For example, if you had cold urticaria, drawing an icecube down your skin might produce a line, and falling in a cold pool might cause most of your body to swell up.
But if you had a violent allergic reaction to strawberries, you might pop up with spontaneous hives all over your body, or a rash, or your throat might swell up due to internal hives.
Physical urticarias means that the reaction is caused by a physical trigger such as touch, and then your body reacts in that particular spot. Random hives and rashes means that the problem is something else.
Treating Dermatographic Urticaria - I just want it to stop!
Some people are lucky, and it doesn't hurt. Good for them.
However, for some people, it hurts. Many have it disappear after a few months or a couple of years. But in the meantime they have to live with it - and believe me when I say 'living with it' is barely an option. I have trouble opening door handles and walking! Leaning back on a chair leads to a half hour scratching marathon. Brushing my hair...
So how to fix it? As far as I know, you can't 'fix' dermographism. But you can lessen the symptoms to a bearable level.
There are five possibilities that I have discovered:
Take antihistamines every dayAvoid the allergens.Herbal/Natural Remedies and Holistic Solutions (Detoxification and other things)Phototherapy (to be researched - although this is apparently only a short-term cure, so not actually useful for most people, and the only sites about it seem to be companies offering it)
You may be able to find more information in the links below, but I think I've covered everything. And I always want to hear if something worked for you.
- Dermatographism - Hives - Sensitive Skin
Dermatographism is a common form of physical urticaria characterized by red, itchy bumps and lines on the skin as a result of pressure on the skin or with stroking the skin. Learn more about the causes and treatment of dermatographism.
This web site is an information source for those living with a medical condition known as Dermographism/Urticaria.
- Arch Dermatol -- Abstract: Acupuncture Treatment of Urticaria, November 1998, Chen and Yu 134 (11):
Archives of Dermatology is a monthly professional medical journal published by the American Medical Association. Archives of Dermatology publishes original, peer-reviewed reports and discussions that address the effectiveness of diagnosis and treatme
- Physical Urticaria � Physical Hives � Dermographic Urticaria
Today I was diagnosed with Dermagraphism or physical urticaria. The symptoms started after the birth of my last child who is now two.
- Guidelines for the treatment of Urticaria in Primary Care [PDF]
Management Guidelines for Urticaria in Primary Care Dr. Valerie Walkden Consultant Dermatologist
Photos of My DermographismClick thumbnail to view full-size
Art on Your Skin - Ariana Page Russell - An artist who uses her dermographism to create artwork
Ariana Page Russell is an artist who uses her dermographia to create designs and patterns and photographs them. She then uses the photographs to create more art and designs.
She has some fantastic photos of some of the skin writing she has done, and has been interviewed below.
(I would draw your attention to the part when she says it does not hurt - for many people it does.)
Ali Yakubov - miracle or hoax?
This video covers the story of Ali Yakubov and discusses Dermographism about halfway through
"The story of little Ali Yakubov a Dagestani toddler who has been made the center of attention in a region desperate for hope. Is Ali a sign from God, or a hoax? Watch the video and decide."
Antihistamines - Take an antihistamine every day, keep the doctor, insanity and itching away,
As the urticaria is basically a histamine reaction it can be easily countered by taking antihistamines. I was prescribed the antihistamine Loratadine (sold over the counter as Claratyn or Claritin) which I took once a day, and saw an immediate improvement.
I was prescribed it once a day, but took it in the evening as well, as my hayfever and respiratory allergies had also increased. It took two or three days for it to work completely from scratch - and now if I stop taking them, it takes a couple of days to wear off completely. Non-sedative v sedative antihistamines
There is relatively little to choose between different antihistamines. The need to avoid sedation may affect which kind is picked. Combination H1 and H2 blockade may be helpful. Many antihistamines block histamine weals despite not preventing attacks; presumably because histamine is not the only mediator. Use continuous medication if attacks occur regularly, and as required if attacks are sporadic. Loratidine, mizolastine, fexofenadine and cetirizine are the most useful antihistamines for urticaria.
I have now had this condition for four years. Occasionally I stop taking my pills for a week to see if it's still there. It always is. It does not affect me from day to day, while I take antihistamines. I still get the red marks - and often have to explain to others that I did not hurt/scratch/burn myself - but I do not feel them. It might go away in a month, or a year. It might not.
Brand names, active ingredients and subsidised medicines
Often different companies will sell exactly the same medicine under different brand names. Look for the active ingredient, not the brand name. This may or may not affect which ones are subsidized or available over the counter - please check with your local pharmacist or doctor for more information, if you plan to buy this regularly. Please be aware that the anti-histamines can cause the usual terrible list of side effects. I have never noticed any, but they do exist. Please read the warnings on the box. Both the ones I discuss here are non-sedating.
Loratadine, also known as Claritin or Claratyne, is a non-sedating antihistamine that only needs to be taken once a day. Claratyne relieves symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis, (hay fever) such as sneezing, runny or itchy nose, and burning or itchy eyes. It is also used for the relief of symptoms and signs of chronic urticaria, (hives) and other allergic skin disorders. It is not considered addictive.
An Alternative Antihistamine - But the pills are still little and white...
Your body can build up an immunity to your antihistamine - if it no longer works, or if you suffer side effects, you might want to try a different kind. This year my doctor switched me to Cetirizine - (the current brand name is Zetop on my box, Zyrtec online). This was a precautionary measure, as I had been taken Loratadine twice a day for three years, rather then the recommended once a day. And possibly because the funding changed and this one was better subsidized.
I did trial another one, but it didn't work very well, and I can't remember the name... Razene, I think. Apparently that works well for other people.
A classic case of check the ingredient, not the brand name - Cetirizine is the active ingredient, and this product is effectively identical to the more expensive Zyrtec brand.
Avoiding the Allergens - Does removing the allergen fix dermographism?
Firstly, this involves identifying what you are actually allergic to (or if it IS an allergic reaction). If you can't do that, then you can't avoid them. Some people have reported tremendous success with avoiding dairy, for example. My allergens however are environmental and many.
I recently had a perfect test case for this option - I went travelling overseas, back to visit my family in the UK, and at one point forgot my antihistamines.Now, the thing about my home is that I have evolved perfectly to be allergic to everything in the area - the cats, the neighbour's dogs, the dust, the mould growing under the plaster in my walls, and of course, the bush. New Zealand is quite bad for allergies, due to its humidity - and of course, I blame the bush itself. I end up sneezing violently two steps into the treeline. I suspect the invasive weed Tradescantia (also known as Wandering Jew, Purple Heart and Purple Queen) may be partly responsible - it grows everywhere and spreads a lot of spores around, which have been implicated in allergy attacks. Unlike pollen, spores (usually from moulds and fungi) are released in damp and humid conditions, at any time of the year.
And the thing about England was that, especially in winter, none of these allergens existed. Three days with no antihistamines and I had never a sniff. Not a single smidgen of hayfever. Nothing in the way of allergic reactions.
Within two days, I was itching. Within three, I was going mad. Lack of obvious allergens did NOT stop the dermographic reaction. Or not exactly... I never got the dreadful welts, just the itching and burning, red lines and occasionally tiny hives.
So in conclusion? It might have worked, if I'd held out for another week or been in a certifiably 'pure' environment.The hives don't appear as much, the dramatic welts aren't there...But the itching and burning doesn't stop - and that's the important part.
Where Am I Now? Allergy Free Environments CAN Cure Dermatographic Urticaria
Since writing this lens, I have moved out of home and into a flat (yes, I'm a student!) away from the bush, the mould, the dust...
My dermographism almost disappeared. I still sneeze, I still get red lines - even welts, if I've been carrying something heavy. But I barely notice it. I forget to take my antihistamines for a couple of days, until the sneezing starts.
When I go back to visit, I take my antihistamines because after 2-3 days, the welts return.
Allergies caused my dermatographic urticaria
I should also mention that my diet has changed slightly (less gluten), and while we do have cats around (an outdoor one and a kitten that we caught from a litter of strays and now follows me everywhere, and climbs on me at every opportunity, the quick turnaround when I go back up to the bush makes me think it's definitely allergy based.
Edit 1st January, 2011: I got caught without my antihistamines while around home and my welts are back and most aggravating. Oddly, they are now lasting up to a full hour, especially on my arms.
Antibiotics and Digestion
One theory I have seen, that seems to fit many cases, is that antibiotics destroy the stomach enzymes and digestive bacteria, causing your body to over-react to certain foods or allergens.
Natural Herbal Remedies and Holistic Solutions - Do they work? Can I avoid the chemicals?
Most of the sites I've found about dealing with Dermographism usually promote some form of 'All Natural Product' - however I cannot tell you if they work. Also, many natural remedies (apparently) require time to 'balance' you, so to speak.
While I would like not to be taking pills everyday, I'd enjoy the alternative a lot less. And so I've been a little leery of attempting any holistic experimentation. What I do know, and have tried, I'll describe here.
Firstly; there are theories that it is a symptom of underlying immune problems,
These are possibly tied to Celiac disease, thyroid disorders and gluten intolerance (which are also linked to Asperger's Syndrome, something else I have mild symptoms of). If you have any of these conditions, addressing them may help your dermographism.
I have seen suggestions that people try immuno-depressants - or change your diet and see what the effect is. While this does make sense, I DO NOT KNOW what truth there is in this, what steps you would have to take, and how long the process would take to help you.
Secondly; Nettles and Urticaria
Urticaria is taken from the name for the nettle genus Urtica, due to the similarity to the nettle rash caused by stings from the Stinging Nettle. The rash is actually very similar in cause, effect and treatment (anticortisones and antihistamines) to allergy hives.
When I was first trying to identify my symptoms, my mother found out that I was displaying urticaria (we didn't know this was just the name for hives) and bought an extract of nettle for me to take a few drops of, every day. I have also tried drinking nettle tea (bought in the UK, not available locally in New Zealand) which was frankly rather boring. For both the 'nettle' related products, I noticed no particular difference.
Thirdly; Soothing the Hives
The last thing we tried was balms for the welts - violet and chamomile, with oil and beeswax, from the local market. Violet to heal and chamomile to soothe itching... I applied them on the welts and yes, they worked. The itching was soothed and this lovely cool greasy balm smelt nice, so I took to carrying it around. Of course,that didn't last long, as they didn't stop NEW welts - which meant I just ended up with very greasy skin and still itching. They would have been very good for eczema or psioriasis, though. There's also , which does not make your skin greasy and is apparently very soothing. Kukui Oil
I only know about this from what I have read, but acupuncture has long been used by the Chinese to address skin conditions. Studies report improvement for acute (short term) urticaria, but nothing conclusive for chronic urticaria.
The Immune System, Antibiotics and Dermographism - Gluten and Digestion. A common connection - a possible cure?
Dermographism is basically an exaggerated response of the immune system to certain substances. It is the same thing that happens with allergies - overproduction of histamines - which is why antihistamines help. It is controlled by the immune system, which is probably why it appears connected to many immune disorders.
However a common theme in many cases is antibiotics and food intolerances. Strong antibiotics destroy the bacteria cultures in your stomach - which is why you should eat yoghurt when you take them to replace these! It is entirely feasible that they have an effect on your digestion and immune system reactions.
Several anecdotes from people - and there really are only anecdotes - have had success with identifying certain foods that they are very sensitive too (sugar, dairy or gluten, tend to be the commonest) and avoiding these, or by 'cleansing' their systems, over a month or two of careful eating to purge their systems and replacing the missing bacteria or giving themselves a chance to heal (it is all speculative).
This article on just how bad gluten is for you points out that it can lead to autoimmune disorders - which is basically what dermographism is. (It's a chapter from the book The Paleo Solution, which you can find below)
The Paleo Solution - Give it thirty days.
The blurb on this is ridiculously over-promotional but the reviews bear it out and I was impressed with the chapter about gluten that I did read (linked above and again here if you're curious). Gluten is attracting an increasing amount of suspicion... sadly pasta is so is easy to cook!
Books About Allergic Urticaria and Antihistamines You Can Buy - If you need more information, or have enough to act on, these may be what you go to next
Because dermographism is such a 'straightforward' problem, there isn't much written about it. And because it is rare, non-fatal, and mostly mysterious, once you have identified it as dermographism there isn't much more information out there, except from people's experiences. These books are the only ones generally available that are of any use.
the antihistamines are a very good investment, however, if your dermographism is allergic in nature. I can't survive long without mine! I have to - depending where I'm living - take between 2 a day to one every three days, and I cannot go longer without the pain and itching coming back too strongly to cope with. I get three months supply at a time from the doctors, which is a lot of pills!
If you do decide to try the detox/bowel cleansing route, please take care - especially if you are pregnant, on medication, or have pther health issues. Also remember to take some form of probiotics (yoghurt, at the very least) to replace the bacteria cultures in your stomach afterwards. I've looked up a few books to start with - hopefully they'll help if you do try this route (and I'd be interested in hearing what happens).
The Best It Gets - Minor Urticaria - I scratched my arm just now before I started writing ten minutes ago, and got two red lines - they're just fading to pink..
The given percentage of the population with dermographism is supposed to be 5%. And yet it also appears to be a very rare condition... how can both be true?
My theory is that the 5% includes everyone who reacts in some way - not just the dramatically whealing and welting people - are included in that number. My brother and my mother both get red marks from scratching at their skin. They exhibit very minor dermographia. They do not get hives.
They look like this
For an example of the amount of welting - the standard amount when on antihistamines or when not constantly breathing cat fluff or pollen, the video below is pretty close.
Furthermore - every time she scratches her nose, or brushes her hair back, or touches her face? Everytime that happens, there's a chance she's caused a red mark to appear. Now imagine walking around with scratches all over your face...
Natural Remedies or Go to the Doctor? - What works and what's worth it when trying to cure Dermatographic Urticaria?
While being forced to buy antihistamine medicine longterm is a pain, and possibly a strain on the wallet, at least they work. (I get mine prescribed, and therefore save through the funding for prescribed medicine and by going, as a student, to the subsidised University doctors). There are many stories floating around of miracle cures - no two alike, and more believable allevation of symptoms from homeopathic remedies or cutting certain foods out of your diet, such as milk. Some people claim that certain drugs increase and perpetuate their dermographism.
I do not know what is available in your area, but both the antihistamines I take are available both on prescription and over the counter in the UK and USA, as well as on Amazon - check the wikipedia articles or talk to your local pharmacist (chemist) or doctor for updated and relevant details. For homeopathy, I really do not know. One aspect of homepathy is that what is right for each patient can vary significantly, so even if something had worked for me, it might not be right for you.
Has anything ever worked for you? Is it worth the time and effort?
Is it worth trying a homepathic remedy?
Dermographism affects the skin, and its ability to be touched. - The importance of holding in our insides
The skin is one of our most important organs, and also possibly the most sensitive. It is vital for touching, feeling, and not leaking. Skin protects us against pathogens, and reduces dehydration. It insulates us, sweats, provides vitamin D, scars, blushes, burns and wrinkles up. It is used as a visual form of communication - we are judged by our skin, be it colour, health, attractiveness...
Dermographia interferes with our ability to touch and be touched. Out of control scratching can cause damage to the skin. Ugly red marks influence other people's judgements and reactions.
Touch is an incredibly important part of human development. Touch deprivation has a hugely negative impact on the behavioral, health and physiological development of people - up to, and including premature death in babies.
Expressing Yourself: Body Art and Skin Writing - Body Painting, Henna (Mehandi), and Tattoos
From henna, to tattoos; painting pictures on yourself in pregnancy to painting pictures on others in love; inscribing meaningful words on your skin in statement and in appreciation - expressing yourself through your skin has an important and beautiful role in human culture. Peter Greenaway's Pillow Book describes the story of a young woman whose life revolves around the words her lovers write on her body
Tattoos and Dermographism - Can I get tattoos if I have Dermatographic Urticaria?
Tattooing involves pressure on your skin. This means hives and welts will form and as the skin will distort while the tattoo is being applied. If the skin swells and bleeds too much, the tattoo will be permanently blurred and distorted. As dermographism is often due to other underlying issues, such as autoimmune disorders, there is also a higher chance of your skin rejecting the tattoo ink.
But can you still get a tattoo if you have dermographism? The answer to this is 'maybe' and talk to your doctor and tattooist. Dermographism leads to a higher risk of distortion, scar tissue and uneven take-up of the ink.
You will need to consider what exactly causes your dermographism and how severely you will react. You can minimise the problem by taking antihistamines beforehand, and an experienced tattoo artist can probably work around the welting. It may also be a good idea to have a small test tattoo done. Also remember that tattoos itch when healing! You will have to be very careful not to scratch it - much more careful than most people.
Looking through the scientific and medical literature (the joys of being a student) I found one anecdotal study from 1973, which observed that dermographia was greater in tattooed areas. K. V. Thiruvengadam, K. Haranath, T. S. Sekar and K. R. Rajagopal. 1973. The British Medical Journal, (4), 5893, pp. 674-675
And did your dermographism interfere?
Have You Ever Gotten A Tattoo?
Delayed Pressure Urticaria - A Slower Form of Dermographia
Delayed Pressure Urticaria is similar to dermographism, except that instead of an immediate to ten minute reaction, the hives may not appear for three to twelve hours after the instigation and then lasts for hours more. Because the reaction is much greater, it can also lead to generally feeling very ill for a day or two.
I know of one person in real life who has this condition, and it appeared to be triggered by a surgical implant. He had to go on cortisone to control it, but has since switch to homeopathy.
Can Allergies Be Cured? - Some can.
Chronic allergies can spiral into all kinds of other health problems. While I have never tried to 'fix' mine, as they are quite bearable, this is the best book I've found on the subject of curing one's allergies.
Please read the comments for specific cases and reviews from numerous people who have tried the NAET method. Most of them are highly positive - Be warned, though, that it is apparently designed to work in conjunction with a trained practitioner, and if you do not have access to one, I'm not sure if this will help you. (From the comments, NAET practitioners exist in the US, Australia and Britain - and probably other places as well).
THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK as I had thought. As the doctor notes on page xxxv :The framework of this book is drawn from a formal dissertational I submitted as a basis for my doctorate degree"
This information is not helpful for treating people who live too far from a NAET practitioner or who may not be able to afford care. As the doctor states on page 28, "This book will teach you how to test yourself and locate your problem. STEPS OF TREATMENT ARE NOT GIVEN HERE BECAUSE THAT IS BEYOND THE SCOPE OF THIS BOOK. NAET TRAINING IS LIMITED TO ACTIVELY LICENSED MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS ONLY"
This was my second time buying this book. My first one has traveled through many hands and has yet to return. The information is so intriguing and validating. Most of my childrens allergies have been treated and elliminated and their health problems have disappeared-just as I hoped they would after reading this book and going through these treatments. The technique described (NAET) is phenomenol. It works. I just wish I didn't wait a year to call the Doctor in our area who performed it. Literally this is medicine of the future.
Stories of people having rid themselves of plaguing pains and illnesses and how NAET successfully eradicated health conditions like peanut anaphylaxis, allergy to shellfish, constant sciatic pain, food allergies, hives, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colitis, lactose intolerance, hay fever, bronchitis, asthma, dust allergy, eczema, hair loss, arthritis, osteoarthritis, sports injury, psoriasis, lupus, bed wetting, allergy to dairy, PMS, sinus headaches, migraines, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, osteoporosis, diaper rash and so many more which all help the reader truly understand the miracle that is NAET.
When Did Your Dermographism Appear?
Did you first get it as a child or not notice until your forties?
Dermographism is common in children, and early teens after which it supposedly clears up. however I have also read authoritative statements claiming that the late teens-early twenties is the mostly likely time for an outbreak. and again, it is said to be common throughout mid-late life
Help figure this out and tell us when your dermographism appeared? (If you are answering this for another person, such as a child, please pretend you are answering AS the child, as you can only vote once per IP or Browser or Squidoo log-in)
When did you first notice your dermographism?
Do You Have Gluten In Your Diet?
Just testing a hypothesis here!
If you read through the first section, you'd see there was a section on diet, immune disorders and gluten. It's all conjecture and people's personal stories, unfortunately. However, there does seem to be some sound science against gluten - grains, oats, quinoa, anything like that.
So I'm curious, do you have gluten in your diet? (And most of us do, so it doesn't prove much). Did you ever try cutting it out? (And it would have had to have been about three weeks or more to count).
Do you have gluten in your diet? Or did you cut it out and see an improvement?
Sweeten the Statistics: What About Sugar?
Another common culprit. Maybe.
Sugar's something else that often gets blamed, and a few people have said they've seen improvements - as long as they don't eat it. Or occasionally, if they don't eat it for long enough to give their body a rest or a cleanse, then they're fine.
The problem is, people who cut out sugar are more likely to be eating more healthily anyway - and exercising! So they'll be less fatigued, possibly eating less of other foods, drinking more water... this muddles the issue somewhat.
Have you tried not eating sugar? Did it make a difference?
Did Dairy Do It? - Or does your dermographism remain undecipherable?
Have you tried not eating dairy and was a link found to your dermographism?
Were You On Antibiotics Before Your Dermographic Urticaria Occurred?
Antibiotics appear to be a common 'trigger' - but how common?
One of the things people tend to mention a lot when describing their experiences is that they were on antibiotics shortly previously - and as you may have read on the previous page, this may have an lasting effect on you by destroying your stomach cultures and from there to your immune system by increasing your 'internal' sensitivity to certain substances.
On the other hand, it may just be coincidence. It's possible that getting sick/infected is what triggered the reaction. I don't think it was co-incidence in my case - I can't remember the last time I took antibiotics apart from the major surgery that preceded my dermographism, but one person doesn't prove anything!
Were you taking antibiotics when, or shortly before (ie within half a year) of noticing your dermographism?
Do You Have Any Other Auto-Immune Disorders?
This is an awfully vague question for a frustrating area of medicine!
The label Autoimmune disease covers a long list of accepted, suspected and possible conditions.
For example: Coeliac Disease, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Lupus erythematosus, Narcolepsy, Psoriasis, Ulcerative Colitis (one of two types of idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease "IBD")
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Kawasaki's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Schizophrenia are all suspected Autoimmune diseases. Being on the autism spectrum has also been tentatively linked to both genetic and autoimmune disorders.
Have you been diagnosed with any autoimmune disorders or diseases?
Are You Allergic to Anything Else?
Or are spontaneous skin welts your only flaw?
Dermographic urticaria is anecdotally linked to allergies, immune disorders and food intolerance - all issues with the immune system reacting too strongly, or against the wrong thing, but there's no common feature of all of the stories. It doesn't help that sometimes allergies and food sensitivity can be hard to identify!
Do you have any known allergies or sensitivities?
Does Anyone Else In Your Family Have Dermographism? - Is yours genetic? or are you just unlucky?
Do any of your relatives have dermographism or any (possibly) related conditions?
How Long Did Your Dermographism Last?
How long have you had it for? How long until it went away?
Outbreaks of dermatographic urticaria can last from days to years, appear once or recur frequently.
How long did your dermographism last for? (How long have you had it for, if you still have it?)
Or did you find a cure?
Do You Still Have Your Dermographism?
Was it worth taking antihistamines for your dermographism?
Did Antihistamines Help You?
What About Gender?
Is there a bias for dermographism sufferers?
While most of the (very short) medical blurbs about dermographism claim that females are more likely to suffer this condition, anecdotally I haven't seen a difference (the stories online seem as likely to be from men as from women).
Edit: The results are 3/4 female so far. Of course, that could mean women are a) more likely to be researching Dermographism and finding this page or b) to be answering polls!