Dermatographia has many different signs and causes can differ from person to person. What makes dermatographia hard to recognize is that symptoms don’t appear on their own usually. They are reactions to scratches, repeated rubbing, or heat. The first time this happens is usually without warning and without prior symptoms.

Itching and Redness

This is the most common and usually first sign of dermatographia. A part of the skin itches and the constant scratching causes an irritation and red welts and rashes appear along the skin. It can happen after you itch a part of your body, or even if clothing is too tight.

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with dermatographia for me is the itching. This is simply because it can happen without me even realizing it. For example, I might be out running on a cold morning. Because it is cold, I am wearing tight fighting clothes to stay warm, that press against my skin. After a few minutes of running, I will often notice my skin is itching uncontrollably. That is simply because as I am moving the clothing is rubbing or scratching my skin constantly.

In addition to itching, dermatographia manifests itself through redness. This mean that areas that might have itched quickly turns into red patches or lines on the body. The area affected reddens and sometimes looks raised.

dermatographia heart drawn on skin

Similar to with itching, clothing rubbing against the skin is a common irritant and usually occurs along the collar sock and cuff line. The same area that was irritated before is now red. And one problem is that the more you itch, the more red your skin becomes. I have seen dermatographia problems that take up a small part of the body, and I have also had times where my entire back or chest was red.

Raised Marks on Skin

Marks on the skin is another symptom of dermatographia. These raised marks appear straight and called linear wheals. If you have ever seen dermatographia before on someone, you will begin to notice it more in the future. It almost looks like a tattoo, except instead of ink it is the body’s own inflammation that creates a raised mark.

The design of the raised skin is usually a replica of the repeated pressure. Scratching up and down is the common cause, therefore, the linear pattern that is most commonly seen. But if someone was to write a word on their arm over and over, that word would form quite clearly as you can see from the examples I post on Pinterest and Facebook.

Usually the reaction occurs within 5-7 minutes after the skin has been irritated. This causes welts to appear over the disturbed skin, making it look like hives or a severe rash. For me, dermatographia symptoms can last anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. Many times the symptoms last for about half an hour at a time but can last for a day or longer, depending on the severity of the general pressure.

Swelling or Inflammation

Swelling and inflammation along the skin can be a symptom of dermatographia. Extreme temperatures makes the symptoms worse. Hot, cold, and dry weather aggravate the dermographism. Hot water, hot tubs, hot showers, and saunas can exacerbate the symptoms, too.

Symptoms for me are generally worse at night. And I have also noticed that alcohol, stress, and extreme weather can increase itching and discomfort. While I have looked for many years to find a cure, the most effective strategies for reducing symptoms of dermatographia include managing your diet, reducing stress levels, and wearing loose fitting clothing.