This condition causes redness, inflammation, and itching (similar to hives) when skin is stroked, scratched, or subject to pressure.


Signs of dermatographism (dermatographic urticaria) develop soon after skin irritation and typically subside within 30 minutes. Symptoms occur after skin scratching or pressure and include:

  • Raised, red marks on the skin
  • Itching
  • Swelling

While each skin reaction ends relatively quickly, patients can experience these symptoms for months or even years. It is neither contagious nor life-threatening.


The reaction is thought to be the result of histamine release from mast cells within the skin.

Researchers have not uncovered what specifically causes dermatographism, but they do recognize a number of symptom triggers. These include:

  • Stress
  • Hot or cold weather
  • Tight clothing
  • Medications, including penicillin
  • Exercise
  • Warm water or steam

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Dr. Schulte can diagnose this condition through a consultation on medical history/symptoms and a quick skin test in which a tongue depressor or other object is rubbed on your skin.

Many patients do not find dermatographia enough of an inconvenience to require treatment. However, over-the-counter antihistamines can help prevent or treat especially bothersome symptoms.

Dermatographism Facts

  • Approximately 5% of people have this condition, and it’s most common in older children and younger adults.

  • Dermatographism, also known as dermagraphism, translates as “writing on the skin” in Greek.