Morgellons disease: Managing an unexplained skin condition
Date Updated: 05/04/2022
Morgellons disease is a condition characterized by a belief that parasites or fibers are emerging from the skin. People with this condition often report feeling as if something is crawling on or stinging their skin. The intense itching and sores associated with Morgellons disease can severely interfere with a person's quality of life.
Some health care providers recognize the condition as a delusional infestation and treat it with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling. Others think the symptoms are related to an infectious process in skin cells. Further study is needed.
Signs and symptoms
People who have Morgellons disease report the following signs and symptoms:
- Skin rashes or sores that can cause intense itching
- Crawling sensations on and under the skin, often compared to insects moving, stinging or biting
- A belief that fibers, threads or black stringy material is in and on the skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depressed mood
What do researchers know about Morgellons disease?
The research on Morgellons by multiple groups over decades has yielded conflicting results. One of the largest studies, done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012, found that the condition isn't caused by an infection or parasites.
The CDC did a study of 115 people with Morgellons, which the CDC refers to as an unexplained dermatopathy. The study showed that most of the fibers in the skin sores could be explained by repeated itching and contamination by fabric fibers rather than fibers emerging from the skin. The CDC study noted that the condition is most often seen in middle-aged white women, and its symptoms are very similar to those of a mental illness involving false beliefs about infestation by parasites (delusional infestation).
Small research studies have tried to determine the cause and effective treatment for Morgellons disease. But there is still no proven guidance on diagnosis and treatment. Further study is needed.
Coping with Morgellons disease
The signs and symptoms linked to Morgellons disease can be distressing. People with Morgellons disease deserve compassionate treatment, even though health care providers may disagree about the nature of the condition. To manage the signs and symptoms of the condition:
- Establish a relationship with a caring health care provider. Find a provider who acknowledges your concerns, does a thorough examination, talks through treatment options with you and works with a multidisciplinary care team.
- Be patient. Your health care provider will likely look for known conditions that point to evidence-based treatments before considering a diagnosis of Morgellons disease.
- Keep an open mind. Consider various causes for your signs and symptoms and discuss your health care provider's recommendations for treatment — which may include long-term mental health therapy.
- Seek treatment for other conditions. Get treatment for anxiety, depression or any other condition that affects your thinking, mood or behavior.