Back to Browse Journals » Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology » Volume 3

Morgellons disease: Analysis of a population with clinically confirmed microscopic subcutaneous fibers of unknown etiology

Authors Virginia R Savely, Raphael B Stricker

Published Date May 2010 Volume 2010:3 Pages 67—78

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S9520

Published 13 May 2010

Virginia R Savely1, Raphael B Stricker2

1TBD Medical Associates, San Francisco, CA, USA; 2International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, Bethesda, MD, USA

Background: Morgellons disease is a controversial illness in which patients complain of stinging, burning, and biting sensations under the skin. Unusual subcutaneous fibers are the unique objective finding. The etiology of Morgellons disease is unknown, and diagnostic criteria have yet to be established. Our goal was to identify prevalent symptoms in patients with clinically confirmed subcutaneous fibers in order to develop a case definition for Morgellons disease.

Methods: Patients with subcutaneous fibers observed on physical examination (designated as the fiber group) were evaluated using a data extraction tool that measured clinical and demographic characteristics. The prevalence of symptoms common to the fiber group was then compared with the prevalence of these symptoms in patients with Lyme disease and no complaints of skin fibers.

Results: The fiber group consisted of 122 patients. Significant findings in this group were an association with tick-borne diseases and hypothyroidism, high numbers from two states (Texas and California), high prevalence in middle-aged Caucasian women, and an increased prevalence of smoking and substance abuse. Although depression was noted in 29% of the fiber patients, pre-existing delusional disease was not reported. After adjusting for nonspecific symptoms, the most common symptoms reported in the fiber group were: crawling sensations under the skin; spontaneously appearing, slow-healing lesions; hyperpigmented scars when lesions heal; intense pruritus; seed-like objects, black specks, or “fuzz balls” in lesions or on intact skin; fine, thread-like fibers of varying colors in lesions and intact skin; lesions containing thick, tough, translucent fibers that are highly resistant to extraction; and a sensation of something trying to penetrate the skin from the inside out.

Conclusions: This study of the largest clinical cohort reported to date provides the basis for an accurate and clinically useful case definition for Morgellons disease.

Keywords: Morgellons, subcutaneous fibers, pruritus, delusions of parasitosis, Lyme disease, skin lesions

Download Article [PDF] 

Creative Commons License This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. Permissions beyond the scope of the License are administered by Dove Medical Press Limited. Information on how to request permission may be found at: http://www.dovepress.com/permissions.php

Other articles by this author:

Characterization and evolution of dermal filaments from patients with Morgellons disease

Middelveen MJ, Mayne PJ, Kahn DG, Stricker RB

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2013, 6:1-21

Published Date: 8 January 2013

Filament formation associated with spirochetal infection: a comparative approach to Morgellons disease

Middelveen MJ, Stricker RB

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2011, 4:167-177

Published Date: 14 November 2011

Benefit of intravenous antibiotic therapy in patients referred for treatment of neurologic Lyme disease

Stricker RB, DeLong AK, Green CL, Savely VR, Chamallas SN, Johnson L

International Journal of General Medicine 2011, 4:639-646

Published Date: 6 September 2011

Evaluation of in-vitro antibiotic susceptibility of different morphological forms of Borrelia burgdorferi

Sapi E, Kaur N, Anyanwu S, Luecke DF, Datar A, Patel S, Rossi M, Stricker RB

Infection and Drug Resistance 2011, 4:97-113

Published Date: 3 May 2011

Lyme disease: the next decade

Raphael B Stricker, Lorraine Johnson

Infection and Drug Resistance 2011, 4:1-9

Published Date: 7 January 2011

Readers of this article also read:

Characterization and evolution of dermal filaments from patients with Morgellons disease

Middelveen MJ, Mayne PJ, Kahn DG, Stricker RB

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2013, 6:1-21

Published Date: 8 January 2013

Newer agents in antiplatelet therapy: a review

Yeung J, Holinstat M

Journal of Blood Medicine 2012, 3:33-42

Published Date: 25 June 2012

Filament formation associated with spirochetal infection: a comparative approach to Morgellons disease

Middelveen MJ, Stricker RB

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2011, 4:167-177

Published Date: 14 November 2011

Evaluation of in-vitro antibiotic susceptibility of different morphological forms of Borrelia burgdorferi

Sapi E, Kaur N, Anyanwu S, Luecke DF, Datar A, Patel S, Rossi M, Stricker RB

Infection and Drug Resistance 2011, 4:97-113

Published Date: 3 May 2011

Lyme disease: the next decade

Raphael B Stricker, Lorraine Johnson

Infection and Drug Resistance 2011, 4:1-9

Published Date: 7 January 2011

Update on the management of chronic eczema: new approaches and emerging treatment options

Hobart W Walling, Brian L Swick

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 2010, 3:99-117

Published Date: 28 July 2010

Acute pain management in children

Susan T Verghese, Raafat S Hannallah

Journal of Pain Research 2010, 3:105-123

Published Date: 15 July 2010

Problems and barriers of pain management in the emergency department: Are we ever going to get better?

Sergey M Motov, Abu NGA Khan

Journal of Pain Research 2009, 2:5-11

Published Date: 9 December 2008