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Unexplained Stinging Skin? It Might Be Morgellons Disease

Morgellons is a very rare, poorly understood skin disease characterized by stinging, itching, and open sores with black, white, or multicolored filaments. Patients with Morgellons disease are often misdiagnosed as having delusional parasitosis, a psychiatric disorder in which people believe they’re infested with insects or parasites. 

People with symptoms of Morgellons disease typically find it challenging to get the help they need. Accurate diagnosis and treatment requires comprehensive evaluation by a dermatologist with knowledge of the latest Morgellons information. 

Here at Hines Dermatology, Yvonne Hines, MD, and our team of dermatology professionals use the latest advances in the field to diagnose and treat a full range of dermatological conditions. Specializing in rare and difficult-to-treat skin diseases, Dr. Hines is devoted to staying on the cutting edge of dermatological research. 

Patients experiencing unexplained skin symptoms such as stinging and itching are wise to get in touch with a dermatologist. Here, we discuss the symptoms of Morgellons disease, what doctors have learned so far, and how you can get help. 

Signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease

Morgellons disease is a complex skin disorder that doctors and researchers are continually working to understand. It causes itching and stinging sensations in affected areas of the skin. Patients may itch so severely that it interferes with their daily life.

While other skin conditions can cause itching, Morgellons disease has some unique characteristics. 

The slow-healing sores that develop can contain unusual fibers. These fibers are often multicolored but can also be black or white, and these fibers are often the most puzzling aspect of Morgellons disease. 

While some of the characteristics of Morgellons are unusual, we want patients with the disease to know there is help. 

What causes Morgellons disease?

Morgellons is a relatively new skin disease, first reported in the United States in 2002. The exact cause remains unknown, but the strongest evidence links Morgellons to a tick-borne infection from a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi — the same bacterium that causes Lyme disease. 

Borrelia organisms belong to a family of corkscrew-shaped bacteria called spirochetes. A striking 100% of people diagnosed with Morgellons disease tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, according to a study of North American patients published in the journal Dermatology Reports in 2018. 

Additionally, many patients with Morgellons test positive for co-infections with other tick-borne bacteria, according to the report.

Morgellons disease vs delusional parasitosis

Many physicians erroneously believe that people presenting with Morgellons symptoms have delusional parasitosis. However, research points to Morgellons as a new skin disease, not a psychiatric condition. The most clinically supported theory is that Morgellons disease is a skin manifestation of a tick-borne infection. 

In fact, a similar skin disease has been identified in livestock. Digital bovine dermatitis is an emerging spirochete-linked disease in cattle characterized by lesions with fibers, as well as fibers under the skin. 

In delusional parasitosis, patients are convinced that they’re infested with insects or parasites, and they scratch themselves as a result. However, patients who truly have delusional parasitosis do not have evidence of fibers or positive blood tests for Borrelia infection. 

Treating Morgellons disease

The approach to treating Morgellons is similar to treating other tick-borne infections. We offer individualized treatment plans. Your specific treatment plan will depend on the results of a physical examination, blood tests, and other relevant data. 

Your treatment may involve topical and oral antibiotic treatment. Dr. Hines may also prescribe medicated topical creams to help your skin heal. 

If you or a loved one has symptoms of Morgellons or unexplained itching, crawling, or stinging sensations, schedule a visit to discuss your symptoms. Our expert team of dermatology specialists can help you combat Morgellons disease.

Contact our Attleboro, Massachusetts, office at 508-222-1976 or book online to schedule an appointment. Current and prospective patients can also send a message to Dr. Hines and the team here on our website.

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