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‘Allergic’ Reaction to Skin Scratching? It May Be Dermatographia

‘Allergic’ Reaction to Skin Scratching? It May Be Dermatographia

Written by Dr. Kenneth Helmandollar

What is Dermatographia?

Dermatographia is skin condition that causes the skin to become red and raised when it is scratched or rubbed. Although it is typically more common in children and young adults, it can occur in any age group. The exact cause of dermatographia is unknown, but it can be triggered by a variety of mechanisms, both allergic and nonallergic.

Symptoms of Dermatographia

The main symptom of dermatographia is the appearance of red and raised areas on the skin when it is scratched or rubbed. In my experience, many people will describe these lesions as “hives.” The affected areas of the skin appear when there is some type of contact or friction on the skin such as where clothes rub or where jewelry is worn.The raised areas usually go away on their own within a few minutes or hours.

Other symptoms of dermatographia may include:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Swelling

Diagnosis of Dermatographia

During my initial evaluation for dermatographism, I would obtain an in-depth history from the patient gathering information on the timeframe of events, potential triggers, alleviating factors, other allergens, and background on medical and pharmacological history of the patient. As part of the physical exam, I would perform a noninvasive test called the dermatographism sign. To perform this test, the skin is lightly scratched with an object such as a tongue depressor. A positive test is considered if the skin flares up within minutes of the test.

Treatment of Dermatographia

It is my experience that dermatographism can be an unpredictable but manageable disease process. For some people, it can last weeks to months while for others it can have a more chronic course. There is no cure for dermatographia, but there are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms. The main goal of treatment is to avoid scratching and rubbing the skin. This can be done by:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers.
  • Avoiding taking hot baths or showers.
  • Using a moisturizer on the skin.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing.
  • Keeping the fingernails trimmed short.
  • If the symptoms of dermatographia severe or bothersome to the patient, I may prescribe medication, such as an antihistamine or a corticosteroid cream

Dermatographia is a common and benign condition. By following these tips listed above, people with dermatographia can manage their symptoms and live normal lives. If you suspect you’re suffering from dermatographism, consulting a dermatologist could be the key to finding relief and maintaining healthier skin.  Speak to a Dermatology specialist at Advanced Specialty Care today by calling us or requesting your appointment online.

—Kenneth Helmandollar, MD

Dr. Kenneth Helmandollar specializes in a range of skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, blistering diseases, acne, as well as the detection & treatment of skin cancers.  He performs surgical excisions of benign & malignant lesions, cosmetic procedures including injectables, and patch testing for Allergic Contact Dermatitis.  He is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.  Dr. Helmandolar is now accepting patients in Danbury, Ridgefield & Norwalk.

To schedule your appointment with one of our Dermatology specialists at any of our convenient office locations in DanburyNew MilfordNorwalk, Ridgefield, or Stamford, give us a call or request online today.

Advanced Specialty Care’s Dermatology practice is welcoming and patient-centered, specializing in all of your family’s skincare needs from head-to-toe.  Our board-certified Dermatologists excel in general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology for patients of all ages, with expertise which allows them to not only diagnose and treat complex skin conditions, but also improve the appearance and condition of the skin.

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