fbpx

Dermographism Urticaria

Updated : August 24, 2023





Background

Dermographism urticaria, also known as dermatographia or dermatographic urticaria, is a form of physical urticaria characterized by the appearance of wheals or hives on the skin in response to mechanical stimuli such as scratching or pressure. The term “dermographism” is derived from the Greek words “derma” (skin) and “graphia” (writing), reflecting the ability to “write” on the skin through the induction of hives.

Dermatographism urticaria is a relatively common condition, accounting for a significant proportion of physical urticarias. It can occur at any certain age but is more commonly observed in children, adolescents, and young adults. The prevalence of dermatographism urticaria is not well established, as it is often underreported or misdiagnosed.

The underlying mechanisms of dermatographism urticaria involve an abnormal immune response and mast cell activation. Upon mechanical stimulation, such as scratching or pressure, mast cells in the skin release histamine, other inflammatory mediators, leading to the characteristic wheals and accompanying symptoms. The release of histamine causes local vasodilation and increased permeability of blood vessels, resulting in the development of red, raised wheals on the skin.

The symptoms of dermatographism urticaria typically include the appearance of wheals that are itchy, red, and well-defined. The size and shape of the wheels can vary, ranging from small lines or dots to larger areas of hives. The wheels are transient and usually resolve quickly, typically fading within 30 minutes to a few hours.

The symptoms can be intermittent, with flare-ups occurring in response to triggers and periods of remission. Dermatographism urticaria is typically a benign condition that does not cause significant health risks. However, it can harm an individual’s quality of life due to the visible nature of the hives, itching, and potential discomfort. It may affect daily activities, sleep patterns, and emotional well-being.

Epidemiology

Dermographism is the most prevalent type among physical urticarias and may coexist with other types of urticaria. A higher occurrence has been noted during pregnancy, particularly in the latter half and at the onset of menopause, in children with atopic conditions and in individuals diagnosed with Behcet disease. Dermographism has the potential to manifest in individuals of any age. Still, it is more frequently observed in young adults, with the highest occurrence during the 2nd and 3rd decades of life.

Whether there is a significant difference in prevalence between sexes remains uncertain. While no consistent patterns have been reported, a study on dermographism in children indicated a higher prevalence among females. Symptomatic dermatographism is generally considered to be of idiopathic nature. However, several explanations have been proposed.

Among the most widely supported theories, there is a correlation between symptomatic dermatographism and factors such as Helicobacter pylori infection, antibiotic use (particularly penicillin), and bites/scabies infestation, which are commonly associated with its occurrence. In cases of systemic mastocytosis, congenital symptomatic dermatographism can serve as an initial sign or presentation of the condition.

Anatomy

Pathophysiology

The pathophysiology of dermatographism urticaria involves an abnormal immune response, particularly involving mast cells and histamine release. Here’s a breakdown of the underlying mechanisms:

  • Mast cell activation: It is a type of immune cells present in the skin and other tissues. They play a crucial role in allergic and inflammatory reactions. In individuals with dermatographism, mast cells are hypersensitive and easily activated.
  • Release of histamine: When triggered by external stimuli such as scratching or pressure, mast cells in the skin release histamine and other inflammatory mediators. Histamine is a crucial player in the development of hives (urticaria). It promote blood vessels in the skin to dilate and become more permeable, leading to localized swelling and the characteristic redness and wheals associated with dermatographism.
  • Sensitization and IgE involvement: In some cases, dermatographism might be associated with the presence of specific IgE antibodies. IgE antibodies are part of the immune system’s response to allergens. Upon re-exposure to the allergen, these antibodies bind to mast cells and trigger mast cell degranulation and the release of histamine.
  • Neural involvement: Neurogenic factors are also believed to contribute to the pathophysiology of dermatographism. It is thought that nerve fibers in the skin play a role in mast cell activation and the release of inflammatory mediators, leading to the development of hives.
  • Abnormal sensitivity threshold: Individuals with dermatographism have a lower threshold for mast cell activation. This means that even mild mechanical stimuli or pressure on the skin can trigger a response, resulting in the appearance of hives.

It’s important to note that while the exact cause of dermatographism remains unclear, it is often classified as an inducible urticaria, meaning specific external factors trigger it. The abnormal immune response and mast cell activation are critical components of the pathophysiology, leading to the characteristic skin manifestations seen in dermatographism.

Etiology

The etiology, or underlying causes, of dermatographism urticaria, are not fully understood. Here are some potential etiological factors:

  • Genetic predisposition: A genetic component may be involved in dermatographism urticaria. It is believed that specific individuals may be more susceptible to developing this condition based on their genetic makeup. However, specific genes or mutations have yet to be definitively identified.
  • Abnormal immune response: Dermatographism urticaria is an abnormal immune response. The immune system is believed to overreact to external stimuli, such as scratching or pressure, which leads to mast cell activation and also release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators.
  • Mast cell dysfunction: Mast cells are immune cells that play a key role in allergic reactions and the development of hives. In dermatographism, mast cells may be hypersensitive or exhibit abnormal behavior, leading to excessive activation even with minor stimulation.
  • IgE involvement: Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies are typically associated with allergic reactions. In some cases of dermatographism, there may be an IgE-mediated component, with specific IgE antibodies against unknown allergens. These antibodies can bind to mast cells and trigger their activation when exposed to certain stimuli.
  • Neurogenic factors: Nerve fibers in the skin may also contribute to developing dermatographism urticaria. Abnormal neurogenic responses or increased sensitivity of these nerve fibers may lead to mast cell activation and the release of inflammatory mediators.
  • Triggers: Dermatographism urticaria is often an inducible condition, meaning external factors trigger it. Common triggers include scratching, friction, pressure, heat, and emotional stress. These triggers can stimulate mast cell activation and the subsequent development of hives.

It’s important to note that the etiology of dermatographism urticaria is multifactorial, and different individuals may have different underlying causes or combinations of factors contributing to their condition.

Genetics

Prognostic Factors

Dermatographism urticaria, in most cases, is a benign and self-limiting condition. The prognosis is generally favorable, and the symptoms improve over time. However, the course of the condition can vary from person to person. Certain factors that may influence the prognosis of dermatographism urticaria:

Severity of symptoms: The severity of symptoms at the time of diagnosis can impact the prognosis. Individuals with mild symptoms or occasional episodes of hives are more likely to have a better prognosis than those with more severe and persistent symptoms.

Treatment response: The response to treatment can also influence the prognosis. Dermatographism urticaria often does not require specific treatment and may resolve spontaneously. However, if symptoms are bothersome or persistent and treatment interventions effectively manage symptoms, the prognosis is generally more favorable.

Trigger avoidance: Identifying and avoiding triggers that can induce dermatographism urticaria can help prevent symptom flare-ups and improve the prognosis. This includes avoiding excessive scratching, pressure, or other mechanical stimuli that can trigger hives.

Comorbid conditions: Other underlying conditions or comorbidities may influence the prognosis of dermatographism urticaria. For example, an individual with other allergic conditions or autoimmune disorders may affect the overall management and response to treatment.

Psychological impact: Dermatographism urticaria can have psychological effects due to the visible nature of the hives and potential discomfort. The psychological impact can vary among individuals and may influence their overall prognosis. Supportive care and addressing any emotional or psychological distress can be beneficial in managing the condition.

Clinical History

Clinical history

  • Age Group: Dermatographism urticaria can occur at any age, from children to adults. It is more commonly observed in younger individuals, with the onset typically occurring during adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can affect people of all age groups.

Physical Examination

Physical examination

During a physical examination for dermatographism urticaria, the healthcare provider will assess the skin and look for specific signs associated with this condition. Here are some critical aspects of the physical examination:

Skin examination: The healthcare provider will carefully examine the skin for wheals or hives. They will look for raised, red welts or lines that may appear after light scratching or pressure on the skin. The size, shape, and distribution of the wheals will be assessed.

Provocation test: To confirm the diagnosis, the healthcare provider may perform a provocation test, also known as a “skin writing” test. This involves scratching the skin with a blunt object, like a tongue depressor, in a specific pattern or shape. The provider will observe the skin’s response and look for the development of wheals that resemble the scratch pattern. This test helps to differentiate dermatographism urticaria from other skin conditions.

Evaluation of associated symptoms: The healthcare provider will inquire about any associated symptoms, such as itching, stinging, or discomfort. They will assess the intensity and duration of these symptoms to understand the patient’s experience comprehensively.

Assessment of trigger factors: The healthcare provider may inquire about potential triggers that provoke the appearance of wheals, such as scratching, pressure, or other mechanical stimuli. They may discuss the patient’s daily activities, clothing choices, and any known triggers that can induce the hives.

Evaluation of other skin findings: While dermatographism urticaria primarily manifests as wheals or hives, the healthcare provider will also examine the skin for additional findings. They will assess for signs of inflammation, swelling, or other skin conditions that may be present concurrently.

Age group

Associated comorbidity

Associated comorbidity or activity:

Dermatographism urticaria is often isolated, and individuals may not have significantly associated comorbidities. However, in some instances, it may be seen in conjunction with other allergic conditions, like allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or asthma. Individuals with a history of atopy (a tendency to develop allergic reactions) may be more prone to developing dermatographism urticaria.

Associated activity

Acuity of presentation

The acuity of presentation:

Some individuals may experience a sudden onset of symptoms, while others might gradually develop dermatographism urticaria over time. The symptoms may be intermittent, with periods of flare-ups and remission. Symptoms can also vary, ranging from mild to more severe and persistent.

The clinical presentation of dermatographism urticaria is characterized by the following:

  • Wheals or hives: The primary feature is the appearance of wheals/hives on the skin when it is lightly scratched or subjected to pressure. These wheals are typically raised, red, and well-defined. They can vary in size and shape, ranging from small lines or dots to larger areas of hives.
  • Transient nature: The wheals or hives in dermatographism urticaria are typically transient and may last for a short duration, usually fading within 30 minutes to a few hours. They tend to resolve spontaneously without leaving any marks on the skin.
  • Itching or pruritus: Itching or a stinging sensation may accompany the affected areas. The itching can be mild-intense and a significant source of discomfort for individuals.
  • Triggers: Dermatographism urticaria is inducible, meaning external stimuli trigger it. Light scratching, pressure, rubbing, or even wearing tight clothing can provoke the appearance of wheals on the skin. The wheals may follow the pattern of the stimulus applied to the skin, resembling the shape of the scratch or pressure.

Differential Diagnoses

Differential Diagnosis

When evaluating dermatographism urticaria, healthcare professionals consider other conditions that can cause similar skin manifestations. The following are some differential diagnoses to be considered:

  • Urticaria: Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is characterized by raised, itchy, and often transient wheals on the skin. Allergic reactions, infections, medications, or underlying medical conditions can cause it. Dermatographism urticaria is a specific type of wheals induced by scratching or pressure.
  • Pressure Urticaria: It is a type of urticaria characterized by the appearance of wheals at pressure sites or compression on the skin. Similar to dermatographism, it involves the induction of hives by mechanical stimuli, but in pressure urticaria, the wheals occur at the sites of sustained pressure.
  • Cholinergic Urticaria: It is a type of urticaria that occurs in response to increased body temperature, such as during exercise, hot showers, or emotional stress. It is characterized by developing small, itchy wheals that a prickling or burning sensation can accompany.
  • Cold Urticaria: It is a form of urticaria triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. It leads to the development of hives and itching upon exposure to cold air or cold objects.
  • Autoimmune Urticaria: Autoimmune urticaria refers to urticaria that occurs due to autoimmune mechanisms. Conditions such as autoimmune thyroiditis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can be associated with autoimmune urticaria.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis: It is an inflammatory skin reaction caused by contact with a specific allergen. It can lead to redness, itching, and a rash or blisters on the skin. It may mimic some aspects of dermatographism urticaria, but mechanical stimuli do not induce it.
  • Cutaneous Mastocytosis: It is a rare condition generally characterized by an unusual accumulation of mast cells in the skin. It can manifest as itchy wheals, redness, and swelling similar to urticaria. However, unlike dermatographism urticaria, the symptoms in cutaneous mastocytosis are not typically induced by mechanical stimuli.

Laboratory Studies

Imaging Studies

Procedures

Histologic Findings

Staging

Treatment Paradigm

Treatment

The treatment of dermatographism urticaria aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, and improve the individual’s quality of life. The management of dermatographism urticaria typically involves a combination of non-pharmacological approaches, administration of pharmaceutical agents, and, in some cases, procedural interventions. The specific treatment options can vary depending on the severity of symptoms and individual response. Here are the different phases of management and the corresponding interventions:

Modification of environment: The initial step in managing dermatographism urticaria involves identifying and avoiding triggers that induce the appearance of wheals. This may include:

  • Avoiding excessive scratching or rubbing of the skin.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing to minimize friction on the skin.
  • Using gentle soaps and avoiding harsh irritants.
  • Maintaining a stable and comfortable room temperature to prevent triggers related to temperature changes.
  • Managing stress levels, as emotional stress can exacerbate symptoms in some individuals.

Administration of pharmaceutical agents: If lifestyle modifications are insufficient in controlling symptoms, healthcare professionals may recommend using medication to manage dermatographism urticaria.

Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Antihistamines: Non-sedating antihistamines are commonly used to block the effects of histamine, reduce itching, and help prevent the development of wheals. Higher doses or combination therapy with different antihistamines may sometimes be necessary.
  • Corticosteroids: In severe cases or during acute flare-ups, short-term use of oral corticosteroids like prednisone may be prescribed to diminish inflammation and provide relief.
  • Intervention with a procedure: In rare cases with severe symptoms and not responding to other treatments, healthcare professionals may consider more invasive interventions. This may include:
  • Phototherapy: Narrowband ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) phototherapy or other light-based treatments may be considered for individuals who do not respond to conventional treatments. These treatments help modulate immune responses and reduce inflammation.

Phase of management: The management of dermatographism urticaria typically involves two phases:

  • Acute management: This phase focuses on providing immediate relief during acute flare-ups. It involves the use of antihistamines and, if necessary, short-term oral corticosteroids to control symptoms and reduce inflammation.
  • Maintenance management: Once acute symptoms are under control, the focus shifts to long-term management and prevention of flare-ups. This phase involves identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining a stable environment, and using antihistamines to manage chronic symptoms.

by Stage

by Modality

Chemotherapy

Radiation Therapy

Surgical Interventions

Hormone Therapy

Immunotherapy

Hyperthermia

Photodynamic Therapy

Stem Cell Transplant

Targeted Therapy

Palliative Care

Medication

Media Gallary

References

Dermographism: Dermatographism – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Dermographism Urticaria

Updated : August 24, 2023




Dermographism urticaria, also known as dermatographia or dermatographic urticaria, is a form of physical urticaria characterized by the appearance of wheals or hives on the skin in response to mechanical stimuli such as scratching or pressure. The term “dermographism” is derived from the Greek words “derma” (skin) and “graphia” (writing), reflecting the ability to “write” on the skin through the induction of hives.

Dermatographism urticaria is a relatively common condition, accounting for a significant proportion of physical urticarias. It can occur at any certain age but is more commonly observed in children, adolescents, and young adults. The prevalence of dermatographism urticaria is not well established, as it is often underreported or misdiagnosed.

The underlying mechanisms of dermatographism urticaria involve an abnormal immune response and mast cell activation. Upon mechanical stimulation, such as scratching or pressure, mast cells in the skin release histamine, other inflammatory mediators, leading to the characteristic wheals and accompanying symptoms. The release of histamine causes local vasodilation and increased permeability of blood vessels, resulting in the development of red, raised wheals on the skin.

The symptoms of dermatographism urticaria typically include the appearance of wheals that are itchy, red, and well-defined. The size and shape of the wheels can vary, ranging from small lines or dots to larger areas of hives. The wheels are transient and usually resolve quickly, typically fading within 30 minutes to a few hours.

The symptoms can be intermittent, with flare-ups occurring in response to triggers and periods of remission. Dermatographism urticaria is typically a benign condition that does not cause significant health risks. However, it can harm an individual’s quality of life due to the visible nature of the hives, itching, and potential discomfort. It may affect daily activities, sleep patterns, and emotional well-being.

Dermographism is the most prevalent type among physical urticarias and may coexist with other types of urticaria. A higher occurrence has been noted during pregnancy, particularly in the latter half and at the onset of menopause, in children with atopic conditions and in individuals diagnosed with Behcet disease. Dermographism has the potential to manifest in individuals of any age. Still, it is more frequently observed in young adults, with the highest occurrence during the 2nd and 3rd decades of life.

Whether there is a significant difference in prevalence between sexes remains uncertain. While no consistent patterns have been reported, a study on dermographism in children indicated a higher prevalence among females. Symptomatic dermatographism is generally considered to be of idiopathic nature. However, several explanations have been proposed.

Among the most widely supported theories, there is a correlation between symptomatic dermatographism and factors such as Helicobacter pylori infection, antibiotic use (particularly penicillin), and bites/scabies infestation, which are commonly associated with its occurrence. In cases of systemic mastocytosis, congenital symptomatic dermatographism can serve as an initial sign or presentation of the condition.

The pathophysiology of dermatographism urticaria involves an abnormal immune response, particularly involving mast cells and histamine release. Here’s a breakdown of the underlying mechanisms:

  • Mast cell activation: It is a type of immune cells present in the skin and other tissues. They play a crucial role in allergic and inflammatory reactions. In individuals with dermatographism, mast cells are hypersensitive and easily activated.
  • Release of histamine: When triggered by external stimuli such as scratching or pressure, mast cells in the skin release histamine and other inflammatory mediators. Histamine is a crucial player in the development of hives (urticaria). It promote blood vessels in the skin to dilate and become more permeable, leading to localized swelling and the characteristic redness and wheals associated with dermatographism.
  • Sensitization and IgE involvement: In some cases, dermatographism might be associated with the presence of specific IgE antibodies. IgE antibodies are part of the immune system’s response to allergens. Upon re-exposure to the allergen, these antibodies bind to mast cells and trigger mast cell degranulation and the release of histamine.
  • Neural involvement: Neurogenic factors are also believed to contribute to the pathophysiology of dermatographism. It is thought that nerve fibers in the skin play a role in mast cell activation and the release of inflammatory mediators, leading to the development of hives.
  • Abnormal sensitivity threshold: Individuals with dermatographism have a lower threshold for mast cell activation. This means that even mild mechanical stimuli or pressure on the skin can trigger a response, resulting in the appearance of hives.

It’s important to note that while the exact cause of dermatographism remains unclear, it is often classified as an inducible urticaria, meaning specific external factors trigger it. The abnormal immune response and mast cell activation are critical components of the pathophysiology, leading to the characteristic skin manifestations seen in dermatographism.

The etiology, or underlying causes, of dermatographism urticaria, are not fully understood. Here are some potential etiological factors:

  • Genetic predisposition: A genetic component may be involved in dermatographism urticaria. It is believed that specific individuals may be more susceptible to developing this condition based on their genetic makeup. However, specific genes or mutations have yet to be definitively identified.
  • Abnormal immune response: Dermatographism urticaria is an abnormal immune response. The immune system is believed to overreact to external stimuli, such as scratching or pressure, which leads to mast cell activation and also release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators.
  • Mast cell dysfunction: Mast cells are immune cells that play a key role in allergic reactions and the development of hives. In dermatographism, mast cells may be hypersensitive or exhibit abnormal behavior, leading to excessive activation even with minor stimulation.
  • IgE involvement: Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies are typically associated with allergic reactions. In some cases of dermatographism, there may be an IgE-mediated component, with specific IgE antibodies against unknown allergens. These antibodies can bind to mast cells and trigger their activation when exposed to certain stimuli.
  • Neurogenic factors: Nerve fibers in the skin may also contribute to developing dermatographism urticaria. Abnormal neurogenic responses or increased sensitivity of these nerve fibers may lead to mast cell activation and the release of inflammatory mediators.
  • Triggers: Dermatographism urticaria is often an inducible condition, meaning external factors trigger it. Common triggers include scratching, friction, pressure, heat, and emotional stress. These triggers can stimulate mast cell activation and the subsequent development of hives.

It’s important to note that the etiology of dermatographism urticaria is multifactorial, and different individuals may have different underlying causes or combinations of factors contributing to their condition.

Dermatographism urticaria, in most cases, is a benign and self-limiting condition. The prognosis is generally favorable, and the symptoms improve over time. However, the course of the condition can vary from person to person. Certain factors that may influence the prognosis of dermatographism urticaria:

Severity of symptoms: The severity of symptoms at the time of diagnosis can impact the prognosis. Individuals with mild symptoms or occasional episodes of hives are more likely to have a better prognosis than those with more severe and persistent symptoms.

Treatment response: The response to treatment can also influence the prognosis. Dermatographism urticaria often does not require specific treatment and may resolve spontaneously. However, if symptoms are bothersome or persistent and treatment interventions effectively manage symptoms, the prognosis is generally more favorable.

Trigger avoidance: Identifying and avoiding triggers that can induce dermatographism urticaria can help prevent symptom flare-ups and improve the prognosis. This includes avoiding excessive scratching, pressure, or other mechanical stimuli that can trigger hives.

Comorbid conditions: Other underlying conditions or comorbidities may influence the prognosis of dermatographism urticaria. For example, an individual with other allergic conditions or autoimmune disorders may affect the overall management and response to treatment.

Psychological impact: Dermatographism urticaria can have psychological effects due to the visible nature of the hives and potential discomfort. The psychological impact can vary among individuals and may influence their overall prognosis. Supportive care and addressing any emotional or psychological distress can be beneficial in managing the condition.

Clinical history

  • Age Group: Dermatographism urticaria can occur at any age, from children to adults. It is more commonly observed in younger individuals, with the onset typically occurring during adolescence or early adulthood. However, it can affect people of all age groups.

Physical examination

During a physical examination for dermatographism urticaria, the healthcare provider will assess the skin and look for specific signs associated with this condition. Here are some critical aspects of the physical examination:

Skin examination: The healthcare provider will carefully examine the skin for wheals or hives. They will look for raised, red welts or lines that may appear after light scratching or pressure on the skin. The size, shape, and distribution of the wheals will be assessed.

Provocation test: To confirm the diagnosis, the healthcare provider may perform a provocation test, also known as a “skin writing” test. This involves scratching the skin with a blunt object, like a tongue depressor, in a specific pattern or shape. The provider will observe the skin’s response and look for the development of wheals that resemble the scratch pattern. This test helps to differentiate dermatographism urticaria from other skin conditions.

Evaluation of associated symptoms: The healthcare provider will inquire about any associated symptoms, such as itching, stinging, or discomfort. They will assess the intensity and duration of these symptoms to understand the patient’s experience comprehensively.

Assessment of trigger factors: The healthcare provider may inquire about potential triggers that provoke the appearance of wheals, such as scratching, pressure, or other mechanical stimuli. They may discuss the patient’s daily activities, clothing choices, and any known triggers that can induce the hives.

Evaluation of other skin findings: While dermatographism urticaria primarily manifests as wheals or hives, the healthcare provider will also examine the skin for additional findings. They will assess for signs of inflammation, swelling, or other skin conditions that may be present concurrently.

Associated comorbidity or activity:

Dermatographism urticaria is often isolated, and individuals may not have significantly associated comorbidities. However, in some instances, it may be seen in conjunction with other allergic conditions, like allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or asthma. Individuals with a history of atopy (a tendency to develop allergic reactions) may be more prone to developing dermatographism urticaria.

The acuity of presentation:

Some individuals may experience a sudden onset of symptoms, while others might gradually develop dermatographism urticaria over time. The symptoms may be intermittent, with periods of flare-ups and remission. Symptoms can also vary, ranging from mild to more severe and persistent.

The clinical presentation of dermatographism urticaria is characterized by the following:

  • Wheals or hives: The primary feature is the appearance of wheals/hives on the skin when it is lightly scratched or subjected to pressure. These wheals are typically raised, red, and well-defined. They can vary in size and shape, ranging from small lines or dots to larger areas of hives.
  • Transient nature: The wheals or hives in dermatographism urticaria are typically transient and may last for a short duration, usually fading within 30 minutes to a few hours. They tend to resolve spontaneously without leaving any marks on the skin.
  • Itching or pruritus: Itching or a stinging sensation may accompany the affected areas. The itching can be mild-intense and a significant source of discomfort for individuals.
  • Triggers: Dermatographism urticaria is inducible, meaning external stimuli trigger it. Light scratching, pressure, rubbing, or even wearing tight clothing can provoke the appearance of wheals on the skin. The wheals may follow the pattern of the stimulus applied to the skin, resembling the shape of the scratch or pressure.

Differential Diagnosis

When evaluating dermatographism urticaria, healthcare professionals consider other conditions that can cause similar skin manifestations. The following are some differential diagnoses to be considered:

  • Urticaria: Urticaria, commonly known as hives, is characterized by raised, itchy, and often transient wheals on the skin. Allergic reactions, infections, medications, or underlying medical conditions can cause it. Dermatographism urticaria is a specific type of wheals induced by scratching or pressure.
  • Pressure Urticaria: It is a type of urticaria characterized by the appearance of wheals at pressure sites or compression on the skin. Similar to dermatographism, it involves the induction of hives by mechanical stimuli, but in pressure urticaria, the wheals occur at the sites of sustained pressure.
  • Cholinergic Urticaria: It is a type of urticaria that occurs in response to increased body temperature, such as during exercise, hot showers, or emotional stress. It is characterized by developing small, itchy wheals that a prickling or burning sensation can accompany.
  • Cold Urticaria: It is a form of urticaria triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. It leads to the development of hives and itching upon exposure to cold air or cold objects.
  • Autoimmune Urticaria: Autoimmune urticaria refers to urticaria that occurs due to autoimmune mechanisms. Conditions such as autoimmune thyroiditis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can be associated with autoimmune urticaria.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis: It is an inflammatory skin reaction caused by contact with a specific allergen. It can lead to redness, itching, and a rash or blisters on the skin. It may mimic some aspects of dermatographism urticaria, but mechanical stimuli do not induce it.
  • Cutaneous Mastocytosis: It is a rare condition generally characterized by an unusual accumulation of mast cells in the skin. It can manifest as itchy wheals, redness, and swelling similar to urticaria. However, unlike dermatographism urticaria, the symptoms in cutaneous mastocytosis are not typically induced by mechanical stimuli.

Treatment

The treatment of dermatographism urticaria aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, and improve the individual’s quality of life. The management of dermatographism urticaria typically involves a combination of non-pharmacological approaches, administration of pharmaceutical agents, and, in some cases, procedural interventions. The specific treatment options can vary depending on the severity of symptoms and individual response. Here are the different phases of management and the corresponding interventions:

Modification of environment: The initial step in managing dermatographism urticaria involves identifying and avoiding triggers that induce the appearance of wheals. This may include:

  • Avoiding excessive scratching or rubbing of the skin.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing to minimize friction on the skin.
  • Using gentle soaps and avoiding harsh irritants.
  • Maintaining a stable and comfortable room temperature to prevent triggers related to temperature changes.
  • Managing stress levels, as emotional stress can exacerbate symptoms in some individuals.

Administration of pharmaceutical agents: If lifestyle modifications are insufficient in controlling symptoms, healthcare professionals may recommend using medication to manage dermatographism urticaria.

Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Antihistamines: Non-sedating antihistamines are commonly used to block the effects of histamine, reduce itching, and help prevent the development of wheals. Higher doses or combination therapy with different antihistamines may sometimes be necessary.
  • Corticosteroids: In severe cases or during acute flare-ups, short-term use of oral corticosteroids like prednisone may be prescribed to diminish inflammation and provide relief.
  • Intervention with a procedure: In rare cases with severe symptoms and not responding to other treatments, healthcare professionals may consider more invasive interventions. This may include:
  • Phototherapy: Narrowband ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) phototherapy or other light-based treatments may be considered for individuals who do not respond to conventional treatments. These treatments help modulate immune responses and reduce inflammation.

Phase of management: The management of dermatographism urticaria typically involves two phases:

  • Acute management: This phase focuses on providing immediate relief during acute flare-ups. It involves the use of antihistamines and, if necessary, short-term oral corticosteroids to control symptoms and reduce inflammation.
  • Maintenance management: Once acute symptoms are under control, the focus shifts to long-term management and prevention of flare-ups. This phase involves identifying and avoiding triggers, maintaining a stable environment, and using antihistamines to manage chronic symptoms.

Dermographism: Dermatographism – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Free CME credits

Both our subscription plans include Free CME/CPD AMA PRA Category 1 credits.

Digital Certificate PDF

On course completion, you will receive a full-sized presentation quality digital certificate.

medtigo Simulation

A dynamic medical simulation platform designed to train healthcare professionals and students to effectively run code situations through an immersive hands-on experience in a live, interactive 3D environment.

medtigo Points

medtigo points is our unique point redemption system created to award users for interacting on our site. These points can be redeemed for special discounts on the medtigo marketplace as well as towards the membership cost itself.
 
  • Registration with medtigo = 10 points
  • 1 visit to medtigo’s website = 1 point
  • Interacting with medtigo posts (through comments/clinical cases etc.) = 5 points
  • Attempting a game = 1 point
  • Community Forum post/reply = 5 points

    *Redemption of points can occur only through the medtigo marketplace, courses, or simulation system. Money will not be credited to your bank account. 10 points = $1.

All Your Certificates in One Place

When you have your licenses, certificates and CMEs in one place, it's easier to track your career growth. You can easily share these with hospitals as well, using your medtigo app.

Our Certificate Courses

Up arrow