The patient with dermographism provides one of the dramatic and lasting images of a medical student's training. A few students had the experience of seeing someone with this condition on the wards or in the out-patient department; most knew dermographism only through the texts, with their classic illustrations—bare-backed patient displaying his own caption: "There'll always be an England," or "January 24,1901," or someone's initials.
Most textbooks could summarize the available information about dermographism into three or four paragraphs. Dermographia is defined as wheal production, with surrounding erythematous axon reflex flare, at the site of mechanical irritation of the skin, and occurring within a few minutes of stimulation. The disease has been known for centuries, but until recent years little was added to description except the suggestion that the nervous system probably had a role in producing the unusual reaction. Today in this era of heart transplantation and other scientific triumphs,