How to Treat Morgellon's Disease
Morgellon's disease is not well understood. It is highly controversial, with some doctors arguing that it is primarily a mental illness involving delusions that you are infected with skin parasites. Others argue that it is a physical disease that needs to be better studied. Sufferers frequently complain of the feeling that insects are crawling under their skin. Treatment may involve both treating the symptoms and trying multiple things until you find what helps.
Recognizing Morgellon's Disease
Identify your symptoms.Morgellon's disease is a skin disorder in which people have itchy sensations on their skin. This may cause them to scratch until they have open sores. Symptoms include:
- Severe itching caused by sores or a rash
- The feeling that insects are crawling under your skin
- The feeling that you are being bitten or stung by insects
- Fibers or strings in or on your skin.The fibers may be in the sores. Some experts say the fibers are likely from clothing that got stuck in the sores. Others say it is a symptom of an infection.
- Loss of concentration
- Memory loss
- Sleep problems
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Hair loss
- Weight loss or gain
- Low body temperature
- Loss of balance
- Abnormal reflexes
- Inflamed lymph nodes
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Decreased vision and hearing
Explain your symptoms and medical history to your doctor.Your doctor will likely want to hear about both your symptoms and discuss your medical history. Some doctors believe that the causes for Morgellon's may be at least partially psychological. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that people suffering from Morgellon's disease often had a medical history which included one or more of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Skin infections like scabies
- Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or attention deficit disorder
- Drug abuse
Ask your doctor about a skin biopsy.This will enable the doctor to test the affected skin against known infections and environmental factors. This may be useful in ruling out causes other than Morgellon's. Be aware that when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the skin of patients suffering from Morgellon's, they did not find evidence of an infection. This may support a psychological cause for Morgellon's. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:
- No unusual bacteria were infecting the skin samples.
- The fibers in the sores were usually those that could have come from clothing or bandages, such as cotton or polyester.
- The most frequent skin problem observed was sun damage.
Get tested for Lyme disease.A recent scientific study found that filaments in the skin of people with Morgellon's were made of keratin and collagen, not from clothing. This supported the conclusion that Morgellon's is associated with the Borrelia spirochetes that cause Lyme disease. If you think you may have Morgellon's disease, ask your doctor to test you for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
- The testing should be done by a laboratory and clinician who is familiar with Lyme disease.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Morgellon's is not always associated with Lyme disease.
Get tested for other conditions that can cause itching.In order to correctly diagnose Morgellon's, it is important that your doctor rule out other causes of severe itching. This may include:
- Body lice
- Pin worms
- Thyroid problems
- Kidney malfunctions
- Liver problems
Treating Morgellon's Disease
Gather a team of doctors you trust.Because Morgellon's is not well understood, you may benefit from the opinions of doctors from different fields. It is important that all of the doctors are thorough in their examinations and that they listen to you and take your symptoms seriously. You may want to consider talking to:
- Your general practitioner
- A dermatologist
- A psychologist or psychiatrist
- A specialist in Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. You can find doctors who are knowledgeable about Lyme disease by contacting the Lyme Disease Association, International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, the Tick Borne Disease Alliance, or local Lyme support groups.
- Specialists in any other body systems that are affected. For example, if you suffer from vision or hearing problems, add an eye doctor or hearing specialist to your team.
Support your immune system with a healthy diet.A healthy diet will help your body repair and heal any wounds you may have. It will also boost your immune system to help you fight any infections that may be present. The Morgellon's Foundation in the UK recommends:
- Supplying your body with sufficient energy by choosing complex over simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide energy for longer. They include whole-grain breads, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, couscous and whole-wheat pastas. Limit your intake of processed sugars including cookies, cakes, and candies.
- Get a rich array of vitamins and minerals by eating lots of diverse fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and minerals support important physiological processes in your body, including those necessary for healing. Excellent sources include dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and salads topped with different fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, apples, orange slices, or berries.
- Get protein from healthy sources. Eat lean meats like poultry and fish. If you eat red meat, trim the fat off. Vegetarians can get protein from chickpeas and beans.
- Cook with herbs that may have antibacterial or antifungal properties. Options to try include: black pepper, cloves, coriander, chilli, cayenne, turmeric, and cumin.
Use self-care techniques during bathing.The Morgellon's Foundation recommends trying several different options to cleanse your wounds and remove any filaments that might be present. Consult your doctor before using these techniques to make sure they will be safe for you, especially if you have open wounds.
- Exfoliate your skin. This can be done by gently rubbing your skin with a wash cloth or exfoliating glove as you wash. Commercial exfoliating mixtures are widely available at local drug stores. You can also make your own by adding a small amount of salt to the water.
- Take a bath with disinfectant mixtures in it. You can soak for 10 minutes in a warm bath that has salt (1.5 kilograms) added to it. Afterwards rinse off with clear water and dry yourself thoroughly. The Morgellon's Foundation also suggests adding other substances like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and bentonite clay to the water. Consult your doctor first to be sure that they will not irritate your sores.
- Massage your skin with olive oil or bentonite clay after bathing. This should be done on unbroken, dry skin. It will help to moisturize your skin and remove any filaments that may be irritating you. Consult a doctor before applying any treatments to your wounds.
Keep your environment clean.This means being diligent about keeping your house, clothes, and pets clean and well cared for. You can do this by:
- Vacuuming your house to reduce irritants like mold spores, hair, pet dander, and dust. Get a dehumidifier if you have mold growing in your house.
- Washing your clothing and bedding at 60 degrees. Add a small amount of color-safe bleach to the water as a disinfectant.
- Taking your pets to the veterinarian to make sure that they are not infected with parasites. Keep them up to date on their shots and deworm them as recommended by your vet.
Manage stress.Morgellon's is highly uncomfortable and distressing for those who suffer from it. Try to lower your stress levels by taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. You can do this by:
- Getting social support. Stay connected with friends and family. If they don’t live nearby you can keep in touch via phone, letters, email or social media.
- Finding a support group. Your doctor or local health department may be able to recommend groups near you. You may also be able to find support groups specifically for Morgellon's by searching online at the Morgellon's Foundation website.
- Exercising. Exercise will relax you physically and emotionally. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which will lift your mood. General recommendations for adults include 75-150 minutes of exercise per week.
- Using relaxation techniques. These methods can be used even when you don’t feel well enough to be very physically active. They include meditation, deep breathing, visualizing calming images, progressively tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout your body, or doing yoga.
Stay open-minded about treatments.Your doctor may suggest seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. This may be helpful for two reasons:
- The physical symptoms are extremely distressing for sufferers, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Treating the depression and anxiety may substantially improve your quality of life.
- If there is a psychological component to the disease, treating any underlying conditions may help to resolve the Morgellon's. Find doctors you trust and can speak openly with.
Talk to your doctor about medications.Because there is no known cure, the medications your doctors suggest may vary depending upon what symptoms you have. Your doctor may suggest:
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections associated with Lyme disease
- Antifungal medications to treat skin infections
- Anti-parasite medications to kill parasites
- Painkillers to deal with muscle and joint pain
- Anti-histamine medications to address itching and irritation
- Sleep medications to reduce sleep disturbances
How will this affect the eyes?
Will Morgellons Disease go away once someone has it?
- Keep in mind that Morgellon's disease is not well understood and health professionals have different opinions on its causes. Some think that Morgellon's is a specific disorder that should be researched further, others think the symptoms of Morgellon's are actually part of a different condition (such as a mental health condition), and others do not acknowledge this condition at all.
Sources and Citations
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