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Rare skin condition allows woman to create body art

Lotions and medications may not be sufficient to treat dermographic urticaria.

When Ariana Russell looks down at her body, she doesn't see a painful skin condition, but rather a collection of personalized art created on a natural canvas.

Russell suffers from dermographic urticaria, which is a rare skin condition involving a hive-like rash characterized by skin that becomes puffy, itchy and inflamed due to a spontaneous histamine release. For those who suffer from dermographic urticaria, even simple rubbing or scratching of the skin can produce symptoms in just a handful of minutes.

The splotches are readily noticeable to anyone who sees them, so Russell has tried to make the best out of her situation by transforming the rashes into artwork – she frequently scrawls words or designs into her skin using by knitting needles. The designs fade after about 20 minutes, so no long-term effects linger.

According to health news source The Ulticaria Network, about 5 percent of the population suffers from some form of this condition, with most symptoms occurring over a period of a few years and primarily afflicting women in their 20s.

"It doesn't hurt, but I know other people tell me that dermographic urticaria causes them pain. Some people think it's weird, strange or disgusting," Russell told MSNBC. "[Others] tell me I'm doing something beautiful with a weird condition. I'm just trying to show that this is skin, and everybody's skin does different things. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

While Russell has found a way to cope with her conditions, others who suffer from skin problems may prefer to just receive treatment so that symptoms can disappear entirely. A patch test can be used to determine specific conditions, which will allow a doctor to properly treat a patient's symptoms.

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