What is Morgellons Disease?
Morgellons disease is an unexplained skin condition characterized by the presence of microscopic subcutaneous fibers on the body, producing many symptoms across multiple body systems. This poorly understood condition has a worldwide distribution. Some patients with Morgellons disease experience crawling, biting, and stinging sensations on and in their skin. Symptoms can be painful and interfere with daily activities and affect quality of life. Morgellons disease has a real physical pathology. In recent years, multiple peer reviewed studies have linked Morgellons to Borrelia, a spiral shaped bacteria. Further research is warranted.
Morgellons Disease Signs and Symptoms
Most patients with Morgellons Disease experience lesions on the body with fibers extruding from them that are slow to heal. Less frequently, some patients only show signs of fibers protruding from the skin.
Most patients with Morgellons Disease will experience debilitating fatigue or general malaise with crawling sensations under the skin and itching. Patients with Morgellons Disease may shed unusual appearing particles from the skin described as fibers, sand or seed-like, black specks, or crystallized particles.
Other symptoms reported by Morgellons Disease patients include:
- Black specks on/in skin
- “Fuzz balls” on/in skin
- Fine, thread like colored fibers beneath and/or extruding from the skin
- Neurological deficiency
- Vision and hearing changes
- Brain fog and diminished higher cognitive abilities
- Hair loss
- GI changes
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Pain and discomfort
- Dental deterioration
- Sleep disturbances
The sad result of these symptoms in most patients is a severe impact on quality of life and a hindered ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Diagnosing Morgellons Disease
The key diagnostic criterion for Morgellons Disease is the presence of unusual filaments beneath unbroken skin or projecting from skin. There are no diagnostic laboratory tests specifically targeting Morgellons Disease. Research suggests that Morgellons Disease is a manifestation of Lyme disease, and if Morgellons Disease is suspected in a patient, he/she should therefore be tested for Lyme disease. Unfortunately, however, there is no test currently available that is 100% accurate for diagnosing Lyme disease. Both false positive and false negative results can occur, with the latter being far more common. Ultimately, a Lyme diagnosis is a clinical diagnosis to be made by a qualified physician or other healthcare provider, based on symptoms and patient history with test results used as tools to aid in the diagnosis. Lyme serologic testing at many laboratories fails to detect antibodies at levels high enough to be interpreted as positive by the CDC surveillance criteria. Consequently, Lyme disease testing at laboratories specializing in tick-borne diseases is recommended. A physician or other qualified healthcare provider must sign a requisition for Lyme disease testing, and a physician or other qualified healthcare provider knowledgeable about Lyme disease should be consulted for interpretation of test results and for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.
Not a lot is known about the genetic diversity of spirochetes associated with Morgellons Disease. Some laboratories offer testing based on several strains of Bb, including European strains and other related strains. In addition to spirochetal infection, ticks may carry other organisms that co-infect the patient at the time of a tick bite. Patients who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease should be tested for tickborne co-infections. The most common laboratory tests for Lyme disease are serologic tests for antibodies against Bb. Other tests include Bb antigen detection, PCR detection of Bb DNA, lymphocyte transformation tests (LTT), and culture of spirochetes. Elevated complement C4a levels and decreased CD57 natural killer cell levels may be associated with chronic Lyme disease. These tests may aid physicians in determining a Lyme disease diagnosis. Research studies have detected the bacteria Borrelia in every single Morgellons Disease study subject even though most patients have negative serology for Lyme disease.