Morgellons: Psychological or Physical Disability?
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Published: 2012-02-05 - Updated: 2021-10-20
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Library of Related Papers: Disabled World Editorials Publications
Synopsis: Some people disagree with a psychological conceptualization of Morgellons Disease and strongly believe it is a distinct form of medical condition. Although Morgellons disease isn't widely recognized as a medical diagnosis, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating reports of the condition, which they refer to as unexplained dermopathy. Persons who suffer from Morgellons disease report a range of coetaneous symptoms including crawling, biting and stinging sensations; granules, threads or black speck-like materials on or beneath the skin; and/or skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores).
Morgellons disease is broadly defined as a mysterious skin disorder characterized by disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. Although Morgellons disease isn't widely recognized as a medical diagnosis, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating reports of the condition, which they refer to as unexplained dermopathy.
Morgellons, according to the majority of researchers and medical professionals, is a disease to be considered synonymous with, 'Delusory Parasitosis (DP),' which involves the false and unshakable belief on the part of a person, that insects are living either in or on their skin, or inside of their body. There are; however, a number of small groups working to define Morgellons Disease (MD) as a distinct medical condition. The disease was first described in academic literature in the year 2005 after a number of people described crawling sensations, itching, lesions, as well as blue and red fibers and, 'granules,' erupting from their skin.
The majority of the people, it turns out, experienced Lyme disease, and MD was believed to significantly related to it. In two people who self-identified as having Morgellons disease, agrobacterium was believed to be the cause of the increase in the amounts of cellulose-protein complex in their connective tissues. A multi-systemic medical framework for MD with immunodeficiency issues has also been described.
Most researchers and physicians consider Morgellons Disease (MD) to be the equivalent of DP with the difference being that it is not believed to involve parasites, but is more involved with both fibers and granules. Proponents of MD as a medical condition state MD is different from Delusory Parasitosis (DP), quoting a, 'lack of pre-existing psychopathology.' A study performed by Harvey et al; however, found 25 people who self-diagnosed themselves as having MD - participants who all had prior diagnosis of DP, of which 23 whom experienced additional diagnosis such as:
The symptoms of which also coincided with the onset of the symptoms they experienced in conjunction with Morgellon's Disease. What were researchers and physicians to think? The psychological diagnosis present a number of somatic connections, and the medications the people were taking commonly include side-effects such as itching, tingling, and crawling sensations. An indication of this study is that psychological composition of MD is highly likely.
The fact remains that some people disagree with a psychological conceptualization of MD and strongly believe it is a distinct form of medical condition. Another fact is that a diagnosis of Delusory Parasitosis is not always accurate such as with cutaneous myiasis involving inhabitation of a person's skin by fly larvae. It is also important to note that medical and scientific knowledge, as well as the identification of new diseases, pathogens, and treatments, continue to occur.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated, in regards to Morgellon's Disease:
"Persons who suffer from this condition report a range of coetaneous symptoms including crawling, biting and stinging sensations; granules, threads or black speck-like materials on or beneath the skin; and/or skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores) and some sufferers also report systemic manifestations such as fatigue, mental confusion, short term memory loss, joint pain, and changes in vision."
The CDC believes unexplained medical conditions may cause serious illness and disability in people. January of 2008 found the CDC starting an investigation with the goal of gaining a better understanding of, 'unexplained apparent dermopathy,' also referred to as, 'Morgellon's Disease.' The CDC partnered with Kaiser Permanente of Northern California where a number of people potentially experienced MD, as well as the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, to start a comprehensive clinical and lab study of Morgellon's.
Investigators from the team contacted people who reported experiencing symptoms including abnormal sores and skin sensations in conjunction with the presence of fibers in the areas affecting their skin. Within the group of people they contacted were some who used the term, 'Morgellon's,' in order to describe the condition they experienced. The goal of the investigation was to identify any potential common cause or risk factors for the condition. The investigators also desired to objectively describe the signs and symptoms of the condition, study and biopsy specimens from the skin sores of the people they contacted, and examine any fibers or other materials the people reported as being either on or in their skin.
The results of the investigator's study showed the condition appeared to be uncommon in the population representative of Northern California residents. It showed that skin damage due to sun exposure was the most common skin abnormality discovered, with no single underlying medical condition or infectious source they were able to identify. After a complete analysis, the investigators discovered the majority of the sores people experienced appeared to result from chronic picking and scratching, again - without an apparent underlying cause. The fibers and materials the investigators obtained through skin biopsies were largely cellulose, compatible with cotton fibers.
Neuropsychological testing performed by the investigators showed a large number of the people participating scored highly in screening tests for one or more co-existing addictive or psychiatric conditions including somatic concerns, depression, and drug use. The study performed by the CDC's team of investigators discovered no infectious cause, and no evidence of an environmental link. The team found no indication that it would be helpful to continue testing for infectious diseases as a possible cause as well. Instead, the team believes future efforts should focus on assisting people to reduce the symptoms they experience through careful attention to treatment of co-existing medical and psychiatric conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms they experience.
Just one question - Of the people who were involved in the study, and who presumably received treatment for medical and psychiatric conditions responsible for the symptoms associated with Morgellon's Disease - how many found their symptoms resolved?
Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.
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