Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Skin infestation all in the mind

Insect skin infestation in the mind, claim doctors Insects not crawling under the skin

Patients who think their skin is infested with insects show no evidence of an underlying disease, according to new research.

Doctors say the condition is all in the patients mind instead.

Delusional skin infestation is a condition in which patients are convinced that their itchy, irritated skin has an infestation. Some patients are convinced their skin is crawling with bugs, worms, or germs, known in the medical profession as "delusions of parasitosis."

Morgellons Syndrome, where patients report having an itchy skin, along with a crawling, biting sensation and fibrous material coming from the skin, is often described by doctors as a delusional skin infestation.

However, in a study published in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers found no evidence of an infestation of any kind in patients.

"This study is important for patients. Patients frequently believe that physicians are dismissive of their concerns and are not examining their skin closely enough, and therefore patients request that more testing be performed, " they wrote.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, tested skin samples from 108 men and women who attended the hospital between 2001 and 2007.

Of these 80 underwent skin biopsies, 80 provided their own samples, and 52 had both. Nearly eight out of ten patients reported an infestation by bugs, while others thought it was caused by worms, eggs, fibres and specks, among others.

Although most patients had dermatitis and other skin conditions, none of the biopsies showed any signs of an infestation. One of the skin samples provided by the patient themselves contained a parasite, but this was a pubic hair louse.

Researchers suggested that skin inflammation and discomfort which arises from it may act as a trigger for delusional symptoms in susceptible persons.

This article was published on Tue 17 May 2011

Image © EW CHEE GUAN -

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