Dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema are all skin conditions that you have probably heard of. You may not have heard of dermatographia, a skin condition that affects up to five percent of the population. For some people, this skin condition may be short lived, while others will experience it for years on end. Its symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. People who have dermatographia will experience raised, red lines in response to even light scratches. These raised marks can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days. Although they may not have any other side effects, these marks may also be accompanied by irritation and itching.
Causes of Dermatographia
Although the causes of this condition are not known, many people think that it stems from a virus, an infection, or perhaps an allergy. Regardless of the cause of this condition, it results in an immune system that is hypersensitive to even light injury. When the skin is rubbed or scratched its cells release a large amount of histamine, which causes capillaries to dilate. When capillaries dilate, the skin becomes red and inflamed. There can also be a number of other potential triggers such as pressure, sunlight, extreme temperatures, or intense emotion and stress.
The diagnosis for dermatographia is fairly simple and painless. Generally, the doctor lightly drags a tongue depressor across the skin. If the scratch becomes red and swollen within a short period of time, it is likely that the person has dermatographia. Thankfully, this skin condition isn’t known to have dangerous or life-threatening side effects, although some people experience itching or burning when their skin is scratched. Because there are so few painful or harmful side effects of this condition, many people who have it never go to the doctor to receive an official diagnosis, which is why most people have never even heard of dermatographia.
For the people who actually do feel burning, itching, or pain, dermatographia can be particularly uncomfortable and disconcerting. Thankfully, relief is attainable and doesn’t require extensive or expensive medical treatment. Using an antihistamine can help to control the condition. There are a number of over the counter options, such as Benadryl or Claritin, or if the condition is severe, a doctor can also prescribe a more powerful antihistamine.
Embarrassing and Painful, or Artistic Skin Condition?
Ariana Page Russell is an artist who has dermatographia. Rather than being ashamed of her skin condition, she sees artistic beauty in her skin’s reaction. She intentionally creates welts and causes her skin to flush using a blunt knitting needle, fingernails, or other tools, and photographs them as a form of art. The patterns and pictures that she creates become her inspiration for a line of wallpaper that she designs. She also creates decals out of patterns that she creates and applies them to her skin. For Russell, dermatographia is not a reason to hide her skin, but an opportunity to explore the meaning of beauty. Clearly, this skin condition can be seen in many different ways. Is it embarrassing? Is it beautiful? Or is it just plain weird? The answer is all in your perception.