Medicine: The Human Scratch-Pad

Some people have skins so sensitive that it is possible to write on them with a fingernail or the smoothly curved end of a paper clip. This extreme sensitivity, called dermographia ("writing on the skin") is the usual explanation when patients complain that they are "allergic to everything," two Little Rock physicians reported in the A.M.A. Journal. Although the condition has been known for years, it is often overlooked and causes a lot of needless doctoring.

Patients of this type, say Allergists Thomas G. Johnston and Alan G. Cazort, react simply to pressure on the skin. When the allergist applies a patch...

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