Dermographism - or Skin Writing

Morning Flight (Dance of the Sea) - by Flynn the CatWhat is dermographism? Dermographism is a form of physical urticaria (allergic hives caused by physical contact) that is both unusual, idiopathic ('we haven't a clue what caused this') and incredibly frustrating to live with. It turns the sufferers into walking graffiti, their skin a testament and record of every tree branch that scrapes them gently, or rough handshake, that slap on the arm, each casual scratch, when they leant their face on their hand too long, or wore a watch... And behind the public markings, the magazine cover of your body, are the private diaries recorded in skin as one undresses (or just afterwards, as the pressure is relieved), and the inward curl of hands and feet after you walk on rocks or open doors. Disfigurement.

Dermographism is drawing on yourself in lectures and watching the words and pictures grow out of your skin - and then it is the burning and the itching as you sit there trying not to move, and not to scratch because it won't make it go away and if you scratch you'll be trapped in a vicious cycle. It is thinking you have nits because your head is itching, and never finding them; it is never running in bare feet because the gravel bites and you can't scratch at the hard soles of your feet. Dermographism is a fear of leaning back on your chair. Ubiquitous uniqueness.

Dermographism is an addiction to antihistamines. A fear of being without them. Antiantihistaminaphobia. Dermographism is hurting and trying not to complain because the complaints will be constant. Dermographism is a fear of door handles, especially stiff ones that require you to lean and push. Dermographism is people worrying and fussing when you hadn't even noticed the red marks all over your face. Dermographism is a lot of explanations.

Dermographism is unbearable. Dermographism is art and mutation. Pain and fascination. Skin writing. Urticaria. Paper skin. Lumps and hives and lines, white on red. Pale red marks, no matter how many pills you take. Idiosyncracy, over reaction. An immune system that fights the world, and you're not sure which is losing.

That is dermographism to me.

More medically and factually - dermatographic urticaria is a form of contact allergy in which your skin over reacts to touch. Pressure creates hives, in the shape of that pressure. What it is caused by varies depending on who you ask - it has been put in the too-hard basket by most of the medical community, although it's an accepted condition (and has been around for a long time!). It may be triggered by an allergic event (such as a bee sting), or antibiotics (for ear infections or after surgery). These somehow shock your immune system and/or stomach and cause you to over-react to certain foods or substances.

The russian baby Ali Yakubov may suffer from dermographism. This woman's daughter had it appear one day. Most people haven't heard of it, and most people who suffer from it have trouble finding out what it is, what causes it, and how to treat it. It's even harder trying to explain what it is like to live with.