By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel


What is dermatographia?

Dermatographia is a condition also known as skin writing. When people who have dermatographia lightly scratch their skin, the scratches redden into a raised wheal similar to hives. These marks usually disappear within 30 minutes.

The cause of dermatographia is unknown, but it can be triggered in some people by infections, emotional upset or medications such as penicillin.

Most people who have dermatographia don’t seek treatment. If your signs and symptoms are especially bothersome, your doctor may recommend allergy medications such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

How common is dermatographia?

Approximately 5 percent of people have this condition, and it’s most common in older children and younger adults. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of dermatographia?

The common symptoms of dermatographia are:

  • Raised red lines
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Hive-like welts
  • Itching

The signs and symptoms may occur within a few minutes of your skin being rubbed or scratched and usually disappear within 30 minutes. Rarely, dermatographia develops more slowly and lasts several hours to several days.

The condition itself can last for months or years.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes dermatographia?

The exact causes of dermatographia aren’t known. The condition is thought to be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • A history of allergies
  • Excessive rubbing from clothing or bedding
  • Infections
  • Certain medications, including penicillin
  • Exercises that cause excessive skin rubbing (such as wrestling)

Risk factors

What increases my risk for dermatographia?

There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:

  • Have dry skin
  • Have a history of dermatitis, which is a skin inflammation
  • Are a young adult
  • Experience frequent scratches of the skin
  • Have thyroid disease
  • Have a nerve disorder or an internal illness that causes itchy skin

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is dermatographia diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose dermatographia with a simple test. He or she will draw a tongue depressor across the skin of your arm or back to see if a red, swollen line or a welt (wheal) appears within a few minutes.

How is dermatographia treated?

Symptoms of dermatographia usually go away on their own, and treatment for dermatographia generally isn’t necessary. However, if the condition is severe or bothersome, your doctor may recommend antihistamine medications such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra) or cetirizine (Zyrtec).

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dermatographia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dermatographia:

  • Avoid irritating your skin. Refrain from using harsh soaps on your skin. Don’t wear clothing made of itchy material, such as wool. Hot showers or baths may worsen the symptoms.
  • Don’t scratch your skin. If you have dermatographia or other skin conditions that may cause frequent itching, try to avoid scratching your skin. Scratching will aggravate the condition.
  • Keep your skin moisturized. Dry skin tends to make skin itchy. Keep your skin moisturized by using lotions and creams after bathing.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: October 5, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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