All in the head?
By Elaine Monaghan
Imagine one day you see strange fibres, usually clear but sometimes blue, red or black, protruding from your skin, like a piece of spaghetti, or a hair where none is supposed to be.
You itch all over, lesions appear and you have an unnerving, infuriating feeling that bugs are crawling under and on your skin.
"Brain fog" and short term memory loss set in. You are plagued by chronic fatigue. You can't work or go outside much because you don't know if you're infectious and anyway, you're too tired.
Doctor after doctor sees the evidence you bring to your visit - the fibres and the scabs - as the "matchbox" sign that you are imaging things because sufferers of delusional parasitosis traditionally bring their "proof" in a matchbox.
Still the lesions appear, and the fibres. Sometimes you see things that can only be called "fuzzballs," or sometimes grains of sand, or other times, black granules. It hurts. You try to pull the fibres out when you can see them but it doesn't help. Years later, you're still searching for a cure. You might get temporary relief from powerful, long-term antibiotics but as soon as you stop taking them, the symptoms return.
It may sound like a scene from Alien, an elaborate hoax or a biblical parable you forgot. But for an estimated 3,500 self-reported cases, many of them in California, Florida or Texas, it is 21st century reality. These sufferers have registered at a website that seeks support for clinical studies into a mystery disease they have named "Morgellons." Cases have been reported in all 50 states here but also all over Europe, including Britain, many of them by nurses and teachers, according to the Morgellons Foundation. Some doctors have been reported to take it seriously, and one says he has had success treating it with antibiotics. Another physician who specialized in treating Morgellons was in the news a lot lately after he had his license revoked.
But most doctors believe Morgellons is not in the skin, but in the head.
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