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 an uncommon, unexplained skin disorder characterized by sores, crawling sensations on and under the skin, and fiber-like filaments emerging from the sores. It's not certain what these strings are. Some say they are wisps of cotton thread, probably coming from clothing or bandages. Others say they result from an infectious process in the skin cells. Further study is needed.

Signs and symptoms

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.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control 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).

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. Another study conducted in London reviewed five years of cases, from 2003 to 2008, and found 18 patients with a diagnosis of unexplained dermopathy or Morgellons. Of these, 83 percent were middle-aged women and 69 percent were white.

April 01, 2015