Student revises for exams by writing on herself after rare condition causes notepad-like skin

A schoolgirl with a rare condition that means she can write on her own skin with her finger is using her arm as a human notepad – to revise for her EXAMS.

Lucy Pearce who suffers from Dermatographia which means her skin swells when a small amount of pressure is applied

Lucy Pearce who suffers from Dermatographia which means her skin swells when a small amount of pressure is applied

Lucy Pearce, 16, from Sheffield, South Yorks, has such sensitive skin that even the lightest scratch causes large red hives to appear within two minutes.

The hives are so red that she can use her finger to ‘write’ on her arm.

But because it disappears after around 30 minutes, brainy Lucy is using her bizarre condition as a revision aid – giving herself half an hour to memorise important formulae and test her memory once it has vanished.

Lucy, who is preparing to take AS level exams in biology, chemistry, maths and Spanish, said: “At first I was really freaked out by what was happening to my body but now I’ve learned to love it because there are so many advantages.

“It’s really useful for learning important information, while revising for exams I write on my skin and find that I remember my notes much easier.

Lucy Pearce who suffers from Dermatographia which means her skin swells when a small amount of pressure is applied

Lucy Pearce who suffers from Dermatographia which means her skin swells when a small amount of pressure is applied

“If I revised from books or my notepads the answers are right there in front of me but with my condition I can just jot down some keywords and carry on with my day, to see what I remember from that.

“I only have a few weeks left before my exams, but I’m confident that my unusual revision technique will help me.”

Lucy, who hopes to go to university to study dentistry, was diagnosed with dermatographia three years ago  – which is a histamine release to the surface of the skin that causes an allergic reaction – causing irritating, swelling and itching.

The condition allows Lucy to draw and write using her fingers, leaving a long lasting imprint.

She added: “It’s also quite handy if I need to pick something up from the shops, if I write it on my skin it’s there for half an hour so I don’t forget and then it fades away.

Lucy Pearce writing revision notes on herself

Lucy Pearce writing revision notes on herself

“Anything can give me a reaction – from a hug to even putting on make-up, so to avoid people staring as much I used to wear long sleeved tops.

“I can get the marks anywhere on my body apart from my feet, the palms of my hands and my lips, the areas with the most severe reactions are the hotter parts of my body like my torso.

“Sometimes the flare-ups will happen without me even knowing, whenever I scratch an itch on my face the red welts will appear so it can be quite embarrassing.

“My friends were really shocked by it at first and some of them would scratch my arms on purpose to see what happened.

“At first I felt very self-conscious about my condition, but now I’ve learned to deal with people staring and feel less worried about it.

Lucy Pearce with her revision books

Lucy Pearce with her revision books

“Sometimes I’ll draw things on my arms just to see people’s reactions and it’s become a bit of a fun thing to show people because hardly anyone knows about it.”

Her unusual symptoms started when unusual marks began to appear after doing everyday activities like getting dressed and putting on make-up.

Worried parents Jackie and John, both 50, took their daughter to the doctors but medics were baffled – until tests revealed she had a rare form of urticaria that currently has no cure.

Lucy said: “I was really worried at first because I didn’t understand what was happening and why any pressure on my skin was causing such an extreme reaction.

“Even if I scratched an itch on my arm it would start – first it would go white then gradually rise up while getting redder before it’s fully raised up from my skin.

Lucy Pearce and her mum Jackie and boyfriend Daniel

Lucy Pearce and her mum Jackie and boyfriend Daniel

“Since knowing I have dermatographia I’ve been able to learn some of my triggers like stress, hot environments or eating foods with histamine in them like chocolate – so I tend to avoid them.”

After discovering her condition she started talking to other sufferers on Facebook and believes their support has allowed her to feel less concerned about the appearance of her hives.

Lucy said: “Before I used to worry about the appearance of my hives and it used to prevent me from doing normal things like shopping and wearing tops where people could see my arms.

“But after talking to other sufferers online I’ve realised I’ve got nothing to hide and that it makes me really unique.

“Currently there isn’t a cure for this so for the time being I can only hope developments are made but until then I want as many people to know about this condition as possible.”

Lucy Pearce, 16

Lucy Pearce, 16

Allergy UK recommend anyone who believes they have dermatographia to make a diary with information about possible triggers and document pictures in order to help doctors diagnose the rare condition.

Holly Shaw, Nurse Adviser for Allergy UK, said: “Dermatographia can be triggered by environmental factors such as pressure from clothing, for example a waist band on trousers, emotional upsets like stress or medications such as penicillin.

“Symptoms can include hives, which appear as itchy, raised lumps that can vary in position from hour to hour or day to day – and may also appear as lines or shapes.

“The condition can appear at any age, however it is most common in young adults, and can be uncomfortable or painful for some individuals.”

More information can be found on or by calling Allergy UK’s helpline’s contact number is 01322 619898.