Morgellons Disease: The Social Implications
Feb 22nd 2021
Morgellons disease is a rare disorder in which filaments of various colors grow from the skin. These fibers can embed and erupt from unbroken skin or slow-healing sores. Sufferers also report feelings of biting or crawling under the skin. Thomas Browne named the condition in 1674 after he treated an affected child. Today, it is estimated that the disease impacts more than 14,000 families.
In addition to the presence of dermatological abnormalities, those with Morgellons disease may also experience problems with the following systems:
- Nervous system: headaches, fatigue, itching, hallucinations or visual disturbances, tinnitus, short-term memory issues, concentration problems, depression, insomnia, and emotional instability.
- Cardiovascular: heart arrhythmia, high pulse rate, intolerance of blood pressure changes
- Respiratory: coughing and shortness of breath
- Musculoskeletal: musculoskeletal pain, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, joint aches and pain, and chronic fatigue syndrome
In addition to the physical effects of Morgellons disease, there are many social implications. The disease has a long history of being considered and classified as a mental illness. There have been many debates as to whether the cause of it is infectious, environmental, or psychiatric.In the past, it has been frequently attributed to delusional parasitosis or the false belief that your skin is infested with bugs.
However, recent research on the disease shows that the characteristic filaments are microscopic and resemble textile fibers. They can be black, white, or of a vibrant hue, such as red or blue. The disease has also been associated with Lyme disease and three bacterial pathogens – Chamydophila pneumonia, Babesia species, and Borrelia species. Although there is a small association with these pathogens, the number of cases related to infection is small.
Due to the condition’s contested history as well as its symptoms, patients may experience social anxiety. Sufferers from Morgellons often find that others have a hard time understanding the illness and how difficult it is to live with constant crawling, itching, and biting sensations. Clinicians are quick to dismiss the symptoms as psychosomatic. There is the constant presence of visible lesions, some of which are deep and non-healing. Along with these concerns, patients may also be experiencing a cognitive and neurological decline.
Considering the heavy social burden of Morgellons disease, it is no surprise that many individuals with it cannot work at a regular job, and they feel entirely abandoned by modern medicine. Patients with Morgellons also find it hard to resist scratching or picking at the sores and scabs. In many instances, the wound will grow and may become infected. Without treatment, the infection can become septic and deadly.
Needless to say, coping with Morgellons is incredibly difficult. The symptoms are hard to understand for those who do not suffer. Additionally, the rarity of the disease often makes patients feel very alone and isolated. The lack of effective treatment only adds to this burden. Antibiotics and topical rubs can help manage bioburden and kill bacteria, allowing the skin sores to heal. Additionally, antipsychotics or counseling can help if the patient reports high levels of stress and anxiety. But in many instances, the results of these medications are anecdotal, highlighting the fact that there is no standard treatment for the underlying condition.
The burden of symptom management and social feelings and insecurities can be overwhelming for those living with Morgellons disease. Support groups are often a tremendous benefit to sufferers of the condition. These groups can help those with Morgellons connect to others who understand the difficulties of living with this condition. Support groups can also help increase your knowledge and understanding of the disease and share management strategies that have worked for other patients. They help to overcome some of the social implications of living with this challenging condition.