Morgellons syndrome - a rare cause of itchy skin

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This page is an overview of a presentation to the British Society for Ecological Medicine by Dr Damien Downing.

Morgellons syndrome is an example of what happens when doctors do not ask the question why and ascribe problems to psychological factors such as Munchausen syndrome. Google "Morgellons" on Wikipedia and you will see what I mean! (Morgellons is referred to there as a delusional disorder! How wrong!)

Morgellons syndrome is characterised by intense itching which drives people nuts! Often the skin is very damaged because of scratching. There is now very good evidence that Morgellons syndrome is a little bit like sweet itch in horses. Sweet itch is allergy to insect bites. There is good evidence to suggest that Morgellons is caused by a very tiny burrowing fly which gets into the skin, happily feeds on the host's skin cells, produces a larva, then erupts through the skin and flies away. Symptoms arise from allergy to insect parts. We do not see the insect because it is so small but it is thought to be a minuscule fungus gnat. Many sufferers of Morgellons notice tiny threads coming out of their skin which are typically described as black, red or blue; many also notice there are often very tiny flies around them. These flies reproduce in any cavity where there is oxygen, so obviously the skin, probably also the gut and the lungs.

It has been suggested that there is a co-morbidity with Lyme disease and possibly Chlamydia pneumonia. See Lyme Disease and other Co-infections

The diagnosis of Morgellons syndrome is currently made on clinical suspicion, together with the finding of suspicious foreign material.


There is no currently defined treatment plan because this syndrome is at a very early stage of being diagnosed and described. However, there are some interventions that can do no harm and are well worth trying.

  • Salt baths – either one could use ordinary salt, sea salt, or possibly Epsom salts – I would suggest half a kg (one pound) per 15 gallons of bath water – soak in the solution for at least 15 minutes, or longer.
  • Thiamine – one gram daily is thought to be unpleasant to biting insects.
  • Ultraviolet light – i.e. sunshine is often toxic to micro-organisms and possibly small flies.
  • Neem oil
  • Ivermectin – again, this is a drug widely used in the veterinary world for external parasites – it is available on the named patient basis for human use.

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