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. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Morgellons disease is the popular name for an unexplained skin disorder characterized by disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. Morgellons disease also features fibers or solid materials emerging from these sores.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded that Morgellons disease, which they refer to as an unexplained dermopathy, isn't caused by an infection or parasites. Fibers found in the sores are usually wisps of cotton thread, probably coming from clothing or bandages.

CDC experts note that the signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease are very similar to those of a mental illness involving false beliefs about infestation by parasites (delusional parasitosis).

What are the signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease?

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
  • Fibers, threads or black stringy material in and on the skin
  • Severe fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss

The intense itching and open sores associated with Morgellons disease can severely interfere with a person's quality of life.

How widespread is Morgellons disease?

Morgellons disease is a relatively rare condition that most frequently affects middle-aged white women. A cluster of cases occurred in California, which prompted the CDC to conduct a research study to determine if the cases were somehow related.

Apr. 11, 2012