A subject many health care professionals do not want to talk about is the infamous Morgellons Disease. This is a controversial subject because there are several different sides to the issue. A question has been on the minds of thousands, maybe millions of people; what is Morgellons Disease really? In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performed a study in California after a localized “outbreak” was thought to have occurred. Over the years and many months since, the literature on Morgellons disease has changed, including the rising numbers of self-diagnosed Morgellons sufferers who do not believe the CDC study was sufficient.
The CDC.gov article on the “background and summary” of the study conducted for this condition notes that “this website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.” The condition that people around the world call Morgellons Disease is referred to here as “unexplained apparent dermopathy.’ The institutes reported to be involved with the CDC in the 2008 study were Kaiser Permanente of Northern California, a nameless health plan in the area where many possible cases had been reported, and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
The official study has been published on PLOS one, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication. The methods that were used: collection of epidemiological data, clinical evaluations, geographic spatial analysis, and analysis of samples from skin of the patients.
The results identified a prevalence of 3.65 cases per 100,000. The subjects were found to have a median age of 52 years, were primarily female (seventy-seven percent), and Caucasian (also seventy-seven percent). Complaints consisted of chronic fatigue, generally poor health, and crawling sensations beneath the skin which are sometimes called Formication in the medical community. The researchers reported detection of somatic complaints and cognitive deficits. Additionally, drugs were found in hair samples (fifty percent). Examples include drugs from the amphetamine class, barbiturate class, benzodiazepine class, recreational drugs, as well as phencyclidines, and propoxyphenes. Hair samples were tested with HairConfirm by Craig Medical Distribution, Inc., Vista CA.
The conclusion of the study: Though rare, the condition is associated with reduced health-related quality of life. No common underlying medical condition or infectious agent was identified.
The outcome of this case caused a wave of criticism and statements of hopelessness among online groups and forums. Many sufferers claim this is an illness that causes some cancers, other illnesses, and even death. Some believers of the Morgellons Disease find that the cause might be related to “chemtrails.” Other speculations include the belief that the disease was a manufactured bioweapon, a product of nanotechnology, an effect of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), an outcome of synthetic fiber processes (used in the clothing industry), agrobacteria that is seen in trees(believed now affecting humans), or bio-insecticides.
Outside of psychiatry, the CDC conclusion does not give a concrete direction or answer to the individuals seeking medical help. On the opposite side of the controversy, however, is one doctor who has attempted to reach out and explain the condition of what Morgellons Disease really is on a medical level to other practitioners. The letter was written in 2006 and remains available to the public at Oklahoma State University’s website.
Written by Randy S. Wymore, Ph.D Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, and Ronda Casey, D.O. Department of Pediatrics Center for Health Sciences Tulsa, Oklahoma, the letter, headed “Dear Practitioner,” describes how the doctors at this institute have ruled out delusional parasitosis as an explanation for Morgellons Disease due to unique characteristics and clinical findings. The lesions are distinct, poorly healing with membranous scarring after healing; moderate to extreme “pruritis” at sites of lesions as well as at sites skin had not yet erupted. Under microscopic analysis, the fibers that were originally assumed to be objects of textile nature, are the same fibers seen in deep tissue biopsy. Additionally, patients do not respond to anti-psychotics as is seen in patients with delusional parasitosis; new lesions will continue to appear after the “complete cessation of manual excoriation,” or once the patient completely stops picking at the lesion, in any way. This was the prominent assumption made by researchers around 2008, and still to this day, that the lesions are associated with scratching and manual excoriation.
The researchers at Oklahoma State wish to convey to all practitioners that patients should not be presumed psychologically ill; they will appear “skeptical,” “anxious,” and “agitated,” most likely due to living with a chronic disease that has distressful “symptoms,” no known cause and no cure. What Morgellons Disease really is, is a question still up for debate, but the population claiming to be suffering with the illness might find it hard to accept what they are experiencing is purely psychological.
By Lindsey Alexander