Morgellons, also called Morgellons disease, is a condition where the patient has a feeling of something creeping beneath the skin and of being stung and bitten beneath the skin. This is called formication. They also have persistent sores and rashes over their skin and believe that fibers are under their skin. The condition was first recognized in 2002 when Mary Leitao, a mother and homemaker, noticed the symptoms in her little boy. He had sores and complained that he was being tormented by what he called “bugs.” Though the child was examined by a slew of doctors, they could find nothing wrong with him.
Ms. Leitao was still adamant that there was something wrong with her son and founded the Morgellons Research Foundation in 2002. The foundation was closed down in 2012. Morgellons is derived from a condition described in a work by Sir Thomas Browne in the late 17th century. The Centers for Disease Control began to study Morgellons in January 2008 and is still studying the condition. They examined biopsies and blood samples from over 100 people who claimed to suffer from the disease.
The Mayo Clinic also studied over 108 patients and published the results in the Archives of Dermatology in 2011. Neither the CDC nor the Mayo Clinic found any specific infections or environmental causes that would lead to the symptoms of Morgellons. The CDC has named the disease an “unexplained dermopathy.” Because of this, people with Morgellons have been forced to make their own diagnosis of the disease based on their own signs and symptoms.
Besides formication and skin lesions, they also suffer from pains in their muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. They suffer as well from a fatigue that is so crippling that it can interfere with ordinary life. They also experience derangements in their emotional and cognitive functioning. Many of these symptoms are also found in disease like fibromyalgia, though there aren’t fibromyalgia’s tender points with Morgellons patients.
The symptoms also resemble chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and other maladies. Some medical professionals believe that the fibers are textiles that come from the patients’ own clothing as they try to scratch and gouge out the source of the infestation in their skin. Others believe that the fibers might be nerve endings or the legs of mites. Others believe that the fibers are the byproducts of a bacterium that attacks plants, or that they’re something that the body is making on its own.
Other medical professionals blame pesticides and other toxins on the symptoms suffered by the patients. There are dermatologists who, when faced with a patient with Morgellons, believe the patient is delusional and treat them with antipsychotic drugs like pimozide. This drug also treats the patient’s symptom of itching. However, a patient who’s on pimozide must be monitored because the drug can cause heart damage. Some other doctors use the same antibiotic treatments that are used to treat chronic Lyme disease with Morgellons patients.
Some patients, faced with the disbelief of doctor after doctor and no health insurance, turn to dangerous methods to cure themselves of Morgellons. These include dosing themselves with bleach or industrial strength insecticides, or ingesting solutions meant to deworm large animals.