Saturday, December 23, 2006
Crawling Skin May Not Be Mental
By Richard Fagerlund
For the Journal
ASK THE BUGMAN: Q. Can you please help me. I have for three years been using lice and scabies treatment (over-the-counter and prescription).
The condition is that something seems to be crawling within my scalp and skin. I see black things, large eggs in my hair and things that look like "sticks" that shoot out of my scalp and body.
When they hit the floor they explode into what seems like thousands of dartlike objects that burn if they happen to re-enter my skin. I also have what looks like pieces of gravel falling from my body and head.
I do garden, and there are ticks where I live. Do I have a tick infestation or a parasite? I have visited a specialist who refused to look at my head. J.A., Albuquerque
A: Dear readers, this letter is representative of many I get on this subject. Twenty years ago I would get three or four letters like this in a year. Five years ago I was getting a dozen or so a month. Now I am getting them almost every day.
Initially the condition this person described was called delusory parasitosis or delusions of parasites. It was considered a mental problem and still is by many in the medical profession.
I refer these folks to dermatologists with the hope that they would refer them to a psychologist. That is what I did with this person.
I am not sure anymore. I can't believe it is all mental. My theory is that a small percentage of these cases are delusory parasitosis, but the rest may be due to something else, possibly pollutants.
Pesticides' inert ingredients are considered trade secrets. They aren't even required to be listed. I think it is possible some of these inert ingredients are causing some of this phenomena. This condition has a name, Morgellons disease.
Most people don't take it seriously, but I do. I have offered to collect samples of fibers, "seeds," "mites," etc., and curate them for further study. If there are parasites in the samples, I will get them identified.
Go to my Web site, www.askthebugman.com, and you will see instructions on sending bugs in the mail for identification.
I am going to set up a national database of the samples to try to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look at it. If this condition is caused by pollutants, we need to address it, possibly by insisting that all ingredients in pesticides are tested and listed on the label.
Richard Fagerlund is an entomologist. You can contact him by e-mail at email@example.com; by his new cell phone at 385-2820 or at P.O. Box 2427, Edgewood, NM 87015. The Web site is www.askthebugman.com The (505) 442-1195 will be canceled at the end of the year.