Dermatologists have been busy attempting to treat persons that feel they have parasitosis, or the delusion that bugs, worms, germs, or other creepy crawlers are infesting their skin and often see skin doctor after skin doctor to find out what is causing the infestation which is similar to a relatively newly documented sickness named Morgellons. Often, patients bring in samples of the insect and request a skin biopsy even.
Explaining the results of a recent trade publication study, Mark Davis, MD, a professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic explains:
“When we looked at what they brought in and when we looked under the microscope, we never found a parasite. The patient refuses to believe it is a psychiatric disorder because they have a false, fixed belief, so even if you present them all of the evidence, they still believe they have parasites invading their skin. They travel from center to center for another opinion because they really believe their skin is infected. There are no exact numbers on how many people have delusional skin infestation, but it is relatively frequent.”
The research included 108 people with symptoms resembling delusions of parasitosis (infection with a parasite). Some of the patients brought samples, others had biopsies of their skin, and some had both. Of 80 self-procured specimens, 10 were insects, but nine of them were not capable of infestation. One person brought in a sample of pubic lice, which is technically capable of infestation, but not the type that could cause head-to-toe itching. The other specimens were dead skin, plant material, or environmental debris.
This is a psychiatric condition, but people with a “delusional bug syndrome” typically see a dermatologist and not the appropriate doctor such as a psychiatrist.
“They are very upset because they believe their skin is infested with all sorts of nasty things and we don’t see anything or find anything with a biopsy and yet they are in our office, their lives are ruined, and they want treatment. Patients say ‘you are just missing it and not looking carefully enough,’ and just walk out.”
Morgellons disease is a poorly understood condition which a growing number of physicians believe to be a chronic infectious disease. The disease can be both disabling and disfiguring. The symptoms include itching, biting and crawling sensations, “filaments” or fibers which emerge from the skin, skin lesions which range from minor to disfiguring, joint pain, debilitating fatigue, changes in cognition, memory loss, mood disturbance and serious neurological manifestations.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are currently investigating the disease, it is not yet fully recognized by the medical community. At this time, the cause of Morgellons disease is unknown and there is no known cure.
It is difficult to understand the tremendous suffering caused by this disease. Many patients report feeling abandoned by the medical community, as they experience increasingly bizarre, disfiguring and painful symptoms, while often being unable to receive medical treatment for their condition. A large number of patients become financially devastated and without health insurance because they can no longer work. Most people who suffer from Morgellons disease report feeling frightened and hopeless.