There are a number of diseases and conditions that aren’t taken seriously by the medical community at large, instead having the reputation of being forms of delusion or overstatement on behalf of the patient. One of those diseases is chronic Lyme, a severely debilitating disorder that is currently on the increase all over the globe. The controversial nature of chronic Lyme means that it’s rarely considered as a primary diagnosis, and unless patients seek out a Lyme-literate doctor or really push for Lyme-specific tests, there is little chance of it being diagnosed or treated properly. Morgellons disease is another disorder that isn’t taken seriously, which is all the more perplexing when you consider how specific and unusual the symptoms are.
In the case of Lyme, you can see how the symptoms would lend themselves to misdiagnosis or disbelief. For example, chronic Lyme is continually misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, because it has the same debilitating effect on muscles, joints and ultimately, a patient’s overall movement capabilities. Lyme is also known as ‘the Great Imitator’ because of its ability to mimic the symptoms of other chronic conditions, and the severity of the symptoms differs for each patient. Morgellons, however, is a different proposition altogether. The symptoms of this peculiar disorder are so bizarre that you would think the only diagnosis could be Morgellons; there doesn’t appear to be room for error. However, Morgellons is a hugely controversial topic among medical circles, and continues to be one of the most divisive diseases in the world.
To understand why Morgellons isn’t taken as seriously as it should be, it’s imperative to go back to the beginning of the disease. In the grander scheme of human ailments, Morgellons is practically brand-new; it was discovered in 2001 by a concerned mother named Mary Leitao, whose son complained of ‘bugs’ and presented with a number of lesions and sores on his body. When Leitao took him to a doctor, however, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the boy, and after a few visits, attention turned to Leitao herself. She was suspected of suffering from Munchausen’s by proxy, a delusional disease where a parent invents or exaggerates a child’s symptoms for the sake of attention. This is an important development in the history of Morgellons, as the disease was immediately linked with delusion and mental illness, while doctors ignored the symptoms that were right in front of their eyes.
Unperturbed by the medical profession’s suspicions and derision, Leitao set up an online page for the disease (which she had by now named Morgellons, a word she found in an old medical journal that described somewhat similar symptoms), and soon discovered there were thousands of other people all over the world suffering from the same symptoms as her son. These symptoms are part of what makes Morgellons so unique and disturbing. In addition to the ‘itching’ feeling under the skin and the copious lesions, patients have described fibres emerging from sores, and growing outwards in a thread-like manner. These fibres are predominantly blue, black, white and red in colour, and seem to have no rhyme or reason to them. No other condition produces anything like this strange material, and they are one of the key reasons why established medicine’s continued delegitimising of Morgellons is so baffling to patients.
Unfortunately, the wider medical community has chosen to focus solely on the ‘itching’ sensations described by patients, writing off the disease as a heightened case of delusional parasitosis – a condition where the sufferer believes that bugs or insects are crawling around under their skin. The key word here is ‘delusional’. Morgellons is not taken seriously by the medical profession at large because it is considered a delusional disease, which can only be treated by psychotherapeutic methods. The bizarre fibres are written off as threads of clothing that have become attached to the open sores (which themselves are produced by copious scratching), ‘obsessed over’ by patients, who apparently convince themselves the threads are growing out of their bodies. Despite this being completely dissatisfying to patients who know they are suffering from something other than a mental disorder, as it stands in 2018, this is the way that the wider medical community has chosen to view Morgellons.
Help is at hand, however. The Charles E. Holman Foundation is a grassroots organisation committed to finding both a cause and treatment for Morgellons, to attend to the suffering of patients around the world. Recent research has suggested that Morgellons might be a co-infection related to chronic Lyme; this is an exciting breakthrough, which could lead to some much-needed legitimisation for this extremely debilitating disease. BCA-clinic in Germany has a long history of treating patients with Lyme disease. They understand that this particular disorder can come with a host of co-infections, not all of which are known and accounted for; Morgellons could easily be a unique and rare branch of chronic Lyme. People who suffer from Morgellons and work with it day-to-day take the disorder very seriously indeed, and it’s high time the rest of the medical community does too.