Dermatographism Itchiness and Scratching

by Robert Overall
(Ajax, Ontario, Canada)

Do I have this skin disease?

Here are my symptoms. I get this overwhelming urgency to scratch my skin when:

  • I drink a lot of pop;

  • enough pressure is applied to just about any part of my body;

  • I feel too hot or too cold;

  • my bed covers or articles of clothing are rubbing against or tickling my skin.

  • As a result of scratching my itching skin, welts appear very shortly after I start to scratch. Sometimes the skin welts appear immediately after scratching begins, but that may depend on how urgently I feel the need to scratch. At other times, the welts start after a few minutes of scratching the itchy area. However, the longer I scratch, the more soothing it is for my skin, until I no longer feel the need to scratch and the welts disappear shortly thereafter.

    I began feeling itchy all over shortly after seeking relief from the heat, just a few summers ago. That is when I began bathing in an unfamiliar pond (or pool of water) that was on a site that a construction company is still working on. Maybe I picked up a number of parasites. Also, I have been in need of dental care for several years now, since I haven't been able to afford it. I don't know if that could be a factor that could be considered. I have a good share of stress in my life as well.

    Do I have Dermographism? If so, then what can I do to relieve it? Should I do anything at all, since it rarely bothers me at work or when I am going about my daily activities? It bothers me mostly when I am relaxed or in bed. I can scratch for anywhere from one to forty-five minutes before feeling relieved.

    Hello and thank you for your question. Some of the triggers that you have mentioned such as pressure applied to the skin, exposure to cold, exposure to heat, and friction against the skin, are classic dermatographism triggers. They did not cause the dermatographism to develop but do trigger the symptoms of itchiness and hives or welts. Also, the appearance of welts with scratching or any friction applied to the skin is also a typical dermatographism symptom.

    As for the cause, it is usually related to some sort of an allergic reaction of some sort that triggered the release of histamine in the body. This event makes the body hypersensitive and histamine is release with the triggers mentioned above resulting in itchiness, skin welting, and often skin redness. The problem is that there are so many allergens that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Perhaps you did react to bathing in the pond water. Gum health can be linked to a number of health issues and of course so can stress.

    The basic treatment is over-the-counter antihistamines. More elaborate treatments require a prescription antihistamine or combination of antihistamines, monitored by a doctor or dermatologist. Often the treatment is not continuous but off and on for three weeks at a time, for example. Many put up with their dermatographism without treatment and so what you are doing is not unusual. However, scratching continuously for 45 minutes is not acceptable for many.

    There is no cure. In my case, the dermatographism has subsided for the most part and I am not on any medications.

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