Physical Urticaria

I was diagnosed with dermatagraphism or physical urticaria going on 11 years now. Is the Noni juice still working for your? I am surprised at how little information there is about dermatagraphism or physical hives. My allergist said it best, it's an idiosyncrasy. Idio meaning they don't know what it is, and syncrasy meaning it just happens.

I had always been very healthy, until I was stung by a bee some time in 1996 or 1997. The bee stung me at the back of my arm in the tricep area. The spot where I was stung had a small bump. It looked and itched like a mosquito bite, and the symptoms gradually went away. 

Ironically, about one year later, my arm started swelling in the same exact area of the bee sting. It swelled up to a point where my arm started tingling and I had to go to the doctor. In addition to that, the area turned into a dark color, brownish/black. I cannot remember exactly what the doctor prescribed to me, but I think it was antibiotics and the swelling went away. My doctor told me that I may have a very tiny piece of the stinger still in my system which my body was reacting to.

I started to notice my skin would turn red with welts or hives from whenever something touched or braised my skin. This would happen sporadically, sometimes something would really irritate my skin, other times it didn't do a thing. When I would go shopping and try on clothes, I would come out of the dressing room as if someone had whipped me all over my face and body. The swelling and redness would go away after a few minutes to an hour or so.

I decided to go to an allergist thinking I was allergic to something. I showed the allergist what happens when I scratched my skin. He left the room, brought back a book with a picture and small paragraph on Dermatagraphism or dermographic urticaria or physical urticaria and said that is what I had. I could not take the usual allergy prick test because my skin would react to everything due to the needles they would use for the test. He prescribed Claratin-D for me and I have been on antihistamines since then. I have switched from Claratin-D to Clarinex to Allegra and now on Zyrtec 10mg. I have to take my antihistamine every day otherwise I get extremely dry irritated skin and extreme allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.

Please let me know if the Noni juice has been working for you. I have tried acupuncture, holistic alternative treatments and nothing has worked except the daily dose of antihistamine.

Would love to hear stories and treatments from others who have dermatagraphism or physical urticaria.

Edith – February 22, 2008

Today I was diagnosed with Dermagraphism or physical urticaria. The symptoms started after the birth of my last child who is now two. The itching initially started in the hospital after I was given an epidural. I was told that this was a side effect of the epidural wearing off. I still wonder if this has anything to do with my condition.

I struggled the past two years trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I shied away from most intimate contact because of the hives and the constant itching. I changed my soaps, skin moisturizers, and I eliminated carbonated drinks and red meat from my diet. I will continue these practices, but I would love to know whether I am actually doing anything good to eliminate this skin condition.

I truly believed my doctor thought I was crazy. Today I went to an allergist who diagnosed me right off the bat with physical urticaria. I am glad to know that this thing has a name but I would really like to know how to stop it. I was prescribed Xyzal and it helps some.

ChesKesha – February 7, 2008

About 7 years ago, after the birth of my third child, I began having "itching" (hives) episodes, for lack of a better descriptive. First, it was just on my legs, so I would apply anti-itching cream, still not understanding what was causing me to itch. I had just tried a brand new bath gel/lotion so I thought that was the culprit. I stopped using it but still had the problem and it became worse. It was not just my legs, but soon my arms, my back, and all over. I would literally go hide in the bedroom and scratch myself red (which is difficult for an African American woman to do so that tells you how much I scratched!). I would be absolutely miserable and I was going through anti-itching creams and sprays like nothing.

I finally went to the doctor and was told that I had a skin allergy (partially true) and was advised to try a different detergent and a hypoallergenic soap. My diet was analyzed and I underwent blood tests for different allergies. Finally, after seeing an allergist the conclusion was that I had dermographism or physical urticaria. The doctor could not tell me what caused it and could not tell me if it would go away.

Thankfully, there was medicine. First, I tried Zyrtec, which made me an absolute zombie. It was like living in the gray zone because I was always drowsy. Finally, I was switched to Allegra, which works like a charm. I don't like being on medication long term, but without the Allegra I would be in misery. If I miss a day or two I feel it. Many times, I have stepped into the shower having forgotten to take my medicine and I quickly regret it. I can literally feel the histamine reaction in my body and have to quickly get a pill in my system. I have to see an allergist once a year in order to maintain my prescription. Other than that, the physical urticaria condition is under control. I will be thankful when a cure is found for physical urticaria.

Char – February 2, 2008

In November, I was informed about the skin condition dermatographism and physical urticaria, by the allergist I was referred to. I had been suffering progressively over the year as the skin sensitivity started on the torso, spreading from front to back, pretty soon the thighs and arms were affected, and then the rashes started appearing on the neck and face. I had never suffered from allergies, but I too, tried eliminating foods, wine, chocolate, strawberries, and MSG laced products.

As the physical urticaria condition continued with the never ending itchiness and welting, my final scare that got me to see our doctor was when parts of my face would swell, i.e. lips and surrounding area. Then one day one side of my nose closed up internally from the swelling. I called this part of my skin condition, the incredible Hulk effect. Popping an anti-histimine, I made the call and after a three month wait was able to see an allergist. He did the standard testing and educated me about how allergy testing is conducted. One of the controls is water. When he did the scratch test, I was "allergic" to everything including water! My skin reacted to the pressure and lancing by becoming itchy and leaving raised welts. He diagnosed the condition as physical urticaria and told me look up further information on the internet.

Here are a few more things he shared: It is unknown what causes dermatographism or physical urticaria and these hives, there is no cure, it is not contagious, it is not life-threatening, medication (antihistamines) can take the edge off the symptoms. Feel free to experiment in eliminating things that may cause outbreaks, i.e. laundry detergent, rinsing clothes twice, etc. and currently my favorite suggestion is if the itchiness is driving me nuts at night, wear silk pj's. Don't wear clothing that is abrasive on the skin, remove tags and so on. Don't have hot showers. Yep that about sums up what I can remember from my visit.

My visit also included a three-month prescriptive protocol of 1 tablet 20mg of Reactine to be taken every day at the same time. Initially, I could not wait for afternoon naps at 10:00 in the morning and self-medicating with coffee was the only way to go, but my body has adjusted to the dosage for the most part, only sometimes does the need for an extra cup of coffee kick in. This is month 2, one more to go and then we'll see. But having missed a dose, I can pretty much figure out that I'll be researching my options and utilizing anti-histamines when things get real bad. As it stands, even the bottoms of my feet are affected.

I can thoroughly understand how physical urticaria can affect one’s self esteem condition. I too, would become more self-conscious when I could feel the rash making its appearance on my face. And the need to scratch parts of the body when it was inappropriate to do so for lack of privacy. But if you are reading these messages, you are not alone, and the only way to build self-esteem is to educate others because who knows maybe they know someone who is suffering and they have not gotten any answers yet. Your experience can potentially help a stranger.

I wish to express my appreciation for these posts that are so current. These individuals helped re-enforce that dermatographism is being dealt with on so many different levels and by all ages. Thanks for letting me share.

Carla – January 25, 2008

All right, so I am 15 years old and was diagnosed with physical urticaria or physical hives about 4 months ago. What the real problem was for me was the itching. It started on my scalp and I had an unbearably itchy head for about three months. My parents tried every anti-itch or anti-dandruff shampoo out there and NOTHING worked. It was so embarrassing. I was itching so much people thought I had lice!

I went to my family doctor and she tried me on some antihistamines but they were too weak and did not help. Finally, she referred me to a dermatologist. I was diagnosed with physical urticaria at my first appointment. By then, the itching had spread all over, my back, stomach, legs, head, everywhere. The doctor put me on two different medications – Atarax or hydroxozine, and Zyrtec. The Zyrtec works well, but the Atarax causes drowsiness and it is a real burden.

I am now regularly drinking coffee each morning to combat the Atarax’s drowsy effect. I do not like that I am now relying on caffeine, but I have to be able to stay awake during school.

About a month ago, I stopped taking Zyrtec because it is so expensive. I wanted to see how I would do. I did horribly. I went back on it and seem to be doing better, although I am itching right now on my torso and my right hand. In addition, another sacrifice, I have to take cold showers! The hot water makes my scalp goes crazy.

Thank you for the tips to help dermographism or physical urticaria. I did not know organic food could help! Just wanted to let everyone know physical urticaria can affect everyone, even a teen. I know what you are going through!

Emma – January 23, 2008

I am in the US army and currently deployed in Iraq. I have had psoriasis since I was a kid and recently before I deployed, I went to see an army dermatologist explaining symptoms of my skin feeling like it was constantly burning. I thought it was my psoriasis. He then told me I have physical urticaria or dermatographism (skin writing hives) and then said there was nothing he could do other than give me some pills that may help but not much and they are sedative.

Now I am in Iraq and my skin is burning up even though it is wintertime here. I do not even want to think about this skin problem come summer time when I will overheat or do manual labor or wear something uncomfortable (like our armored vests). Anything physical that I used to like to do, I am afraid to do now. I probably should have been discharged or seen by a true civilian dermatologist, but now I am stuck living with it.

I researched this physical urticaria condition and hardly found any useful medications. I am afraid to do certain things, and I cannot take it anymore. It is so irritating, so hard to sleep sometimes, and taking showers is even a pain. What do I do because this dermatographism or physical urticaria is so annoying and I wish there was a cure. Well that about sums up my problem. Thank you for listening.

Johnathan – January 17, 2008

I am a 23-year-old registered nurse in the Philippines. I had no idea what was happening on my skin. I have had this hives condition since I was in my college years. I never thought what it might be called back then, even if I was in the medical field.

At first, I just thought that I had sensitive skin (too sensitive in fact). I could write anything on my skin with blunt objects. At first, I was startled because I thought I may have a serious condition, after all, not everyone can do that. My classmates even thought they had hurt me whenever they would see my hives appear. I simply explained to them that my skin was sensitive.

I did not consult a doctor or even take any antihistamines like many other people who have this skin condition do. I was ignorant. I have managed without ever consulting any specialist. I have lived with it and have had no serious problems with this skin condition.

Just recently (January 2008), I found out that this condition is called dermatographism or physical urticaria. At my work, I am working as a medical transcriber, which requires us to search for terms we do not understand. When doing so, I found this site.

Thanks for this site because now I know what this skin condition is called and that I am not alone suffering from this physical urticaria condition.

Edward – January 12, 2008

It all started about thirteen months ago. I was at work and I started to itch and swell with hives. From November until August, I had NO CLUE what this skin thing was. I called it "my retarded skin disease" and chalked it up to allergies. In August, I saw my allergist and he told me that it was Dermographism or physical urticaria.

I am a sophomore in college now and I am a resident advisor, so I have constant contact with people. I wish I could count how many times a day people ask, "what is that scratch mark?" and "oh my god, are you okay?" I understand people are concerned, but it is so annoying and I wish it would just go away. It is so frustrating to have to walk from our dorm showers with huge hives on my shoulders and having it look like I just got beat up in the shower. It is embarrassing. I try to hide the physical urticaria, but it can't be hidden. I heard that one day it can just go away, has it ever just gone away for someone else?

Samantha – December 25, 2007

I have lived with dermographism and physical urticaria since I was 14 or 15 years old. I have been on different kinds of antihistamines ever since. No medicine I have ever taken reduces the symptoms completely. All the anti-histamines do is take away the itch. The redness and the swelling have always been there and I have had acne ever since I was a teen. I am 25 years old now, so I have lived with this for at least 10 years. I also tried light therapy (similar to tanning salons) but it did not work at all.

My first antihistamine medication was called Histal. It took the itch away completely, but I would have to take it regularly every day. Then the company that produced it merged with a different one and they decided to stop producing Histal and continue with Histasin, which was supposed to be the same. That just didn't work on me at all. Then I was prescribed Aerius, which took most of the itch away, but not all of it. Then, this summer, I went to a new allergy doctor. I could not take any antihistamines or other allergy drugs for three days, which was HARD. He did all kinds of tests on me to see what I could be allergic too. Of course, I became red and swollen for everything, but he was still able to figure out which ones were because of allergies and which ones because of the dermographism. I apparently have developed all kinds of allergies I did not have before, but anyway... that was affecting my breathing, not my skin. Then he gave me a list of foods that I should try to take out completely and start introducing slowly again to see what makes the dermographism or physical urticaria worse.

Of the things I have tried so far, I figured out that I could not have chocolate. That makes my dermographism WAY worse! My itching starts, even though I am on anti-histamines, and I get acne. Avocado also increases itchiness if I have a lot of it. It is alright in very small dosages. Bananas are not great, but not terrible. Other things I am not sure of yet are wine, strong cheeses, pineapple and walnuts to name a few. Tomatoes, spinach and yeast extract were also on the list along with tons of other stuff, but I cannot remember all of it.

The redness and swelling or hives has definitely affected my life. I have always been very aware of it and embarrassed about it in social situations. I cannot ever touch my face or sweat or anything and I get red and sometimes spotted. If I scratch anything,I have red and/or swollen lines or hives on my body or face for up to 30 to 60 minutes. People ask me all the time "oh my goodness, what happened to you?" when suddenly I have a handprint on my neck or something. It is proven to be a great party trick and I can write names and stories on my skin, but other than that the swelling is hardly attractive. I cannot say however that I've been affected with my relationship with the other sex because if I am going out I can always wear make-up. Sometimes, however, if the symptoms are bad, make-up will not even fully cover the hives up. I try to use as little of it and as seldom as I can because it also makes my acne worse and I have to make sure to clean my face extremely well afterwards. In general, my skin never looks clear without make-up because I always have some red spots somewhere because of the condition.

Because of the physical urticaria or dermographism my skin is also very sensitive and I cannot use just any skin products. For example, I cannot use any acne treatments except for steroid creams prescribed from doctors and then only directly on each pimple. I cannot buy any of the stuff from the store. My face just goes on fire. The same with shampoos and make-up removers. I have to buy everything for sensitive skin with no oil or for people with psoriasis. I have to be careful of how I put my make-up on because I can only do it once. My skin cannot take being cleaned and then put through having the make-up put on again and then cleaned later. Once I used a facial cleaner to help with acne and my face blew up like a chipmunk for two days.

I cannot go swimming because the chlorine in the pools irritates my skin and I get breakouts. I have a hard time wearing anything with wool for the same reason and I have to be careful about what kinds of clothes I buy. Some bras I cannot wear at all and many laced ones are very irritating to the skin. I am constantly worried about touching my face or my neck because they'll turn red immediately, making me very self-conscious. Self-esteem has definitely been affected by this hives disease because of the constant worry of appearance, questions about it and people's reactions to my breakouts, especially when they don't know why it happens or just think I always totally weird and always have a huge red line over my forehead and neck or something. I cannot get a massage without people panicking about me turning all red and thinking they just did something horrible to me. The list could go on...

I cannot go off the antihistamines for more than a couple of day’s tops because the itch is unbearable. I will just end up trying to cool myself down in a cold bath (which doesn't really work anyway), scratching myself to the point of bleeding and crying of discomfort. My whole body itches. Even my eyes, eye sockets, inside of my ears, lips... just everything. I'll have no sense of how hard I can scratch myself because scratching does not relieve anything. My palms and fingers itch too so it does not even help to use them. Every inch of my body itches with a kind of stinging feeling like when your limb gets numb after reduced blood flow, except they are not numb at all. My skin will feel feverish to the touch. Scratching makes things worse, both the itching and the hot skin. I cannot even touch a single object because it will increase the itching even further. It is insane. I just cannot go off the meds and if I do not take them regularly (meaning every day at the same hour) they don't take away all the itching and hives.

I have even tried going off processed food, only buy from organic markets and be a vegetarian and it does not help at all. I have hope that once I get pregnant someday this may stop. It occasionally stops for women when they have children I have been told. It is almost like the new hormone change, like the hormone change that happened when you were a teenager, reverses the disease for some women. For other people, the hives might just go away between 20-30 years old without doing anything.

I wish they would either find medicine that cures the physical urticaria disease once and for all or that works on all of the symptoms. When I complain to my doctors that the redness and swelling or hives do not go away they just tell me to live with it. There is nothing else I can do.

Hulda – December 8, 2007

I was diagnosed today with dermatographism (skin writing physical hives or physical urticaria). I hope that my condition will not last more than a few more days. Although I have only had this physical urticaria disorder for a couple weeks, I already seem to be able to get past the physical part with respect to the itching. I just do not think about it and keep moving on with my life. My rashes (or raised lines) subside within 30 minutes to an hour and that really is not that bad. I am 16 and just starting to leave my parents house to go to college and they are so relieved now that it is not such a "serious" skin or health problem. As most worried parents would do, they were very sure that it was my diet (being a vegetarian and all). I think otherwise because it has been a good full year since I have changed my diet. I am happy that the dermatographism or physical urticaria is not severe.

Christian – December 4, 2007

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