Health[REPOSTED WITH PROOF] I recently made a post about dermatographism in which I can write on my skin, AMA
Jan 23rd 2018 by bryoIogy • 28 Questions • 3025 Points
Original post here. Have gotten many requests for an AMA so here it is!
Hi everyone! I didn’t expect this to blow up as much as it did, thanks for all your questions so far. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people saying they have dermatographism or know someone with the same condition but wasn’t aware of what it’s called, and as a medical student I thought it’d be good to do this for awareness.
Basic facts about dermatographism, also known as dermatographia or dermatographic urticaria: - Put simply, dermatographism is a specific type of hives/urticaria where pressure causes a reaction on the skin in the form of a wheal (a red, raised rash). - The age of onset is usually around puberty, and it can go away on its own after a few years or never at all. - Symptoms are constantly re-occurring, chronic itchy rashes that occur with mechanical pressure, usually scratching. - No one knows what causes it for sure, some experts believe there is an autoimmune component. For the most part, there’s a strong correlation with a personal or family history of other allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis, and the general consensus is that genetics play a strong role in it.
Note: 1. Everything below is based on MY own experiences with dermatographism, this varies from person to person and while I personally do not struggle much with this condition, there are some with severe cases who do. Please be respectful of this in the comments. 2. Please do not use anything I say as medical advice, this is reddit and even though near graduation I am very much still a student.
Commonly asked questions:
You’re kidding right? Anyone can do this by scratching their skin hard enough. - Scratching your skin hard usually doesn’t result in the raised, red and angry rashes, formally known as wheals/welts. You’ll more likely get bleeding and ulcerated skin. - It doesn’t take much pressure to cause such a rash, and definitely not to the point of pain. More details on this below - If this happens to you, you might have dermatographism too. It’s not that uncommon.
How did you first find out you have dermatographism? - Around the age of 14, I kept getting itchy rashes (hives) all over my body. The first few times I thought it was an allergy to something I ate, the detergent in my clothes or just some environmental factor, but it kept persisting and affected my sleep every night. I saw a GP who suspected dermatographism, he referred me to a dermatologist who confirmed the diagnosis.
What causes the rashes to appear, do things like wearing clothes/sitting/sleeping cause them to appear? - It takes a certain amount of force/pressure to cause the rash to appear, light contact like simply touching someone, sitting or clothes do not cause these rashes for me. - Usual activities that cause my rashes to appear include but are not limited to: deliberate or accidental scratching, my dog’s claws when she’s trying to get my attention, or carrying grocery bags from my wrists. - For deliberate drawing, a fingernail or blunt hard object like an ‘off’ ballpoint pen would work. Toothpicks if you want finer lines. - For extremely severe cases (not me), even light contact has been known to be a trigger.
How much pressure does it take to cause the rash? - Not much, and definitely not so much as to cause pain. The best way I can describe it is with the pressure you’d exert when scratching a normal itch.
How long do the rashes last? - Usually between half an hour to an hour. They gradually subside on their own, given some time.
Are they painful/itchy? - Sometimes they’re itchy, but I take antihistamines regularly and this helps a lot. On medication they’re usually not itchy for me. They’re rarely painful - only when they get incredibly itchy and I try to resist scratching then the itchiness sort of morphs into a weird form of ‘pain’. This hardly happens though.
Where do you normally get these rashes? Do you get rashes on your genitals/does it affect sex/can you masturbate without getting it all red? - Normally on my arms, trunks and legs - especially my upper arms, forearms, back and thighs. This also varies between individuals with dermatographism. - Never in my 10 years of living with dermatographism has it occurred down there. Thank God. - It can happen around the crotch and buttcheeks but never on the genitals or anal region itself. - Other places where I don’t get it include the face, scalp, palms and soles of my feet
How long have you had dermatographism? - I first got it when I was around 14, and I’m currently 24. It’s gotten a bit better (less flares and the rashes are less itchy) but that could just be me growing up and being more compliant with medications.
What do you do for your treatment of dermatographism? - I take antihistamines daily, which helps with the frequency, duration and intensity of the rashes. Antihistamines are of relatively low toxicity and have few side effects. There are other treatment options such as as immunotherapy, but this is reserved for the rare and severe cases that are resistant to antihistamines and the condition still affects the life of the patient greatly.
Does it ever affect your life? - No, for me it’s hardly debilitating as I just get an occasional rash that may or may not itch. At worst it’s an annoyance, at best it’s a fun party trick. - The only time it affects me is when I start to get a flare while sleeping, and start to scratch while being half-asleep. By the time I wake up and realise what’s going on, the rashes are all over my body and it’s itchy as hell. At which time I’ll quickly pop some meds but those take time to kick in so my sleep is ruined for the rest of the night. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often.
Do any of your family members have dermatographism too? - No, but my dad and sisters have asthma and eczema, which are related conditions and a known risk factor for developing dermatographism.
Can you always draw on your skin? - My condition is quite well-controlled so no, most of the time my skin is like any other person’s. Even deliberately scratching it may not cause a reaction. But occasionally my skin acts up a little (I can tell when I start to get a little itchy), and that is when I can draw on it to create the rash.
Do people draw things on you? - Not so much anymore, but especially in high school. Bored classmates sitting near me would draw on my skin, and sometimes I’d also join in. It’s all in good fun. Yes, the most commonly drawn thing (not by me) were dicks. Or ‘insert name was here.’ Typical graffiti:)
Have you used it to cheat on an exam/test? - No, call me a square I think it’s dishonest and I wouldn’t want to run the risk of getting caught. I also feel it’s not worth the trouble as it’ll take a lot of very fine writing to have anything of utility in an exam; by the time you need it, it could have faded.
Do you have a funny/interesting story about your condition? - Coincidentally, I have a childhood friend who has this condition before I knew about it. We were waiting for gym/PE class to start, and he was wearing a tank top. He told me not to mess with his skin because it would appear as a rash. Being a young kid, I immediately slapped his shoulder and delighted in the ginormous red handprint that resulted. 2 years later, I was diagnosed with the same condition. Karma is a bitch, except on reddit where it’s never enough.
Have you ever used it to pick up girls? - ‘Wanna see a magic trick? Trace your phone number on my arm’ Call me odd but I’ve always been in long-term relationships and have never ‘picked up’ a girl in my life. I have used it to write ‘I ❤️ insert GF name’ once or twice though. Didn’t get much of a reaction since they were used to it.
How detailed/ornate can your ‘drawings’ be? - Not very. The rash is due to localized swelling and fluid collection within the tissues, which is why it appears to be raised. So finer strokes produce much a bigger ‘font’ in the end.
Do you have tattoos/want to get a tattoo? - I’m personally not interested in tattoos, but it would be possible if the tattoo artist is okay working with your skin and your condition is not too severe. All the trauma and physical pressure is likely to cause a reaction during the tattooing process, and the swelling and redness could make it hard for them to do a good job. But it’s unlikely to cause anything life-threatening or dangerous. If you have dermatographism and want a tattoo: to be safe, I’d consult your doctor beforehand on whether you’re a suitable candidate for tattoos, and please do let your tattoo artist know during the planning stages as well.
What should I do if I think I have this condition? - Take a photo of it when you have a rash, and SEE A DOCTOR. Most of the time you’ll be prescribed antihistamines if it is in fact dermatographism, which you’ll have to take for as long as you have it. If it doesn’t affect you much and you’re okay living with it, you probably won’t need the meds. But I’d strongly recommend you see a doctor to get it diagnosed anyway. Not all hives are dermatographism, and it could be something serious. Your health is important!
Do you do skin drawing requests? - I did one of dickbutt which was a popular request on my initial post, but I’ll probably not do anymore unless it’s something I find really interesting.
What is the most embarrassing/ awkward moment that you’ve had because of this condition?
Honestly nothing special, you kinda get used to it quick. When you’re young your friends will draw dicks and other stupid things on you but that’s about as bad as it gets
Have you ever made yourself breakout to get out of something? Like a test, a date or a family event?
Nope, I think tests are too important to be avoided.
As for dates and family, I’m usually pretty upfront if I just don’t want to go.
It’s not as common as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma, but it’s not rare either.
Greetings, fellow skin writer! Mine has diminished significantly as I've aged and is usually worse when it is hot and humid. My mother has it, too. Do you also have any relatives with it?
I’m the only one, but my family does have a history of asthma and eczema, which are related conditions.
What is your favorite Pokemon, and why? Bonus points: Digimon?
Magikarp. Useless but great potential.
Argumon cause that’s the only one I know. Was always more into Pokemon as a kid
Ever drawn anything really ornate/complicated for the fun of it?
Nope, I’m not particularly artsy and pretty lazy so dickbutt was the hardest I’ve tried
Pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast, waffles with ice cream for dessert. You can have the best of both worlds
Dickbutt definitely takes the cake
What are the downsides to this condition? It seems to be pretty harmless.
For most people, like me, it’s just mildly annoying due to the itch. As I mentioned above, rarely it affects my sleep but it’s not a big deal because it doesn’t happen often. For some people even light contact can be a trigger and they perpetually have severe rashes all over their body, in those cases it can really affect your life a lot.
For most people the age of onset is around puberty. So it’s rather expected
It might make it hard for the tattoo artist due to all the rashes and skin swelling, but other than that it’s deemed rather safe.
I also have this condition, but does your skin also burn when you do it? I'm pretty much stuck taking an antihistamine every day or so.
Nope it doesn’t burn, at most it itches a little:) I take antihistamines everyday
Have you ever asked a girl to write her number with her fingers on your arm?
Talked about this in a comment from my earlier post.
Probably yes, while mild all things considered, it’s still a health condition or disease. So while I’m okay having it too, I don’t see why not get it cured if possible.
Can you write on your penis too? It'd be a nice idea for Valentine's day for your SO.
As I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t affect my genitals, so I couldn’t even if I wanted to.
Nope, I’ve already mentioned this above!
Are there any complications or actual drawbacks to having this condition? Because to me this just seems fucking cool to have
answer to a similar question
What do you mean by draw? Do you just run your finger across your skin and it appears red for a while?
Run my fingernails along my skin with moderate pressure