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Phantom Lice and Morgellons Disease

It’s understandable to panic at the thought of your child’s head lice spreading throughout your home. It can cause even the calmest parent to start feeling a bit, well, itchy. But once you’ve been checked or received head lice treatment in Orlando, your paranoia will probably subside. For a rare few, however, the itchiness is caused by something called phantom lice syndrome or Morgellons disease.

People who suffer from conditions like phantom lice syndrome, delusional bug syndrome or Morgellons disease report feeling like something is literally trapped under their skin. They believe lice, bugs, worms, eggs, fibers or tiny specks are right under their skin or are trying to come out of it. They may seek medical attention or head lice treatment, even though they do not physically show any signs of an infestation.

It sounds surreal, but this type of mysterious skin condition gained national attention when Joni Mitchell announced in an interview that she suffers from Morgellons disease. In a 2010 Los Angeles Times piece, Mitchell stated, “I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space. Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral.”

Morgellons disease is believed to be a psychological condition. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that the symptoms of Morgellons very closely match those of a mental illness called delusional parasitosis—the false belief of being infested with parasites.

Symptoms reported by those affected include:

  • Skin rashes or sores that cause severe itching
  • The sensation of something crawling under the skin, compared to bugs moving or stinging
  • Feeling as if fibers or strings are in or on the skin
  • Intense fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss

After studying Morgellons, the CDC reported that it is a relatively rare condition, and appears to primarily affect middle-aged white women. Morgellons is fairly controversial in the medical community, and health professionals tend to believe one of the following:

  • It is a specific condition that needs more research to be confirmed.
  • That symptoms of Morgellons are due to another cause, often mental illness.
  • Don’t acknowledge Morgellons or are waiting for further research to be done.

Conditions such as phantom head lice syndrome or Morgellons may not be well understood, but it’s clear that they lower the quality of life for those who suffer. People with these conditions should seek a caring medical provider and keep an open mind. With their doctor, they can discuss treatment for other issues that they may have such as anxiety, depression or mental illness.

For information on head lice treatment in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Savannah and the services we offer, please visit our services page.