Morgellons disease: Managing a mysterious skin condition
Morgellons disease is mysterious and controversial. Here you'll find answers to common questions about Morgellons disease — and suggestions for coping with it.
Morgellons disease is a mysterious skin disorder characterized by disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. Although Morgellons disease isn't widely recognized as a medical diagnosis, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating reports of the condition.
If you suspect that you have Morgellons disease, you may have many questions about the condition. Here's what you need to know about Morgellons disease, including practical tips for managing your signs and symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease?
The Morgellons Research Foundation lists six primary signs and symptoms of the condition:
* Skin lesions accompanied by intense itching
* Crawling sensations on and under the skin, often compared to insects moving, stinging or biting
* Fatigue significant enough to interfere with daily activity
* Inability to concentrate and difficulty with short-term memory
* Behavioral changes
* Fibers — which can be white, blue, green, red or black — in and on the lesions
These signs and symptoms might appear along with changes in vision, stomach pain or other gastrointestinal symptoms, and changes in skin texture and pigment.
Morgellons disease shares characteristics with various recognized conditions, including attention-deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a mental illness involving false beliefs about infestation by parasites (delusional parasitosis).
How long has Morgellons disease been around?
In 1674, English physician and writer Sir Thomas Browne used the term "Morgellons disease" to describe "black hairs" emerging from childhood skin lesions. Today, the Morgellons Research Foundation doesn't claim that the disorder described by Browne is the same as Morgellons disease. Rather, the foundation adopted the term as a convenient label for a set of signs and symptoms.
How widespread is Morgellons disease?
Reports of Morgellons disease have been made in every state in the United States and 15 countries around the world. Most reported cases are clustered in Calfironia, Texas and Florida.
What do researchers know about Morgellons disease?
Beyond anecdotal reports, researchers know little about Morgellons disease. The Morgellons Research Foundation reports no known causes of Morgellons disease and no successful treatment for the condition. Whether Morgellons disease is contagious remains a mystery.
How controversial is Morgellons disease?
Current attitudes toward Morgellons disease fall into various categories:
* Some health professionals believe that Morgellons disease is a specific condition likely to be confirmed by future research.
* Some health professionals believe that signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease are caused by another condition, often mental illness.
* Other health professionals don't acknowledge Morgellons disease or are reserving judgment until more is known about the condition.
Some people who suspect Morgellons disease claim they've been ignored, criticized as delusional or dismissed as fakers. In contrast, some doctors say that people who report signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease typically resist other explanations for their condition.
How can you cope with the signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease?
The signs and symptoms linked to Morgellons disease can be distressing. Even though health professionals disagree about the nature of the condition, you deserve compassionate treatment. While research continues, take positive steps to manage your signs and symptoms.
* Establish a caring health care team. Find a doctor who acknowledges your concerns and does a thorough examination. Since Morgellons disease often requires frequent follow-up visits, a local health care team may be most convenient.
* Be patient. Your doctor 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 follow your doctor'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, moods or behavior.
* Keep track of the latest news about Morgellons disease. Supplement the information you find online with articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Remember that some sources are more reputable than are others.
To learn more about Morgellons disease or to report suspected cases of Morgellons disease, call the CDC Morgellons information and voice mail line at 404-718-1199.