Mold skin rash found on exposure to high levels of Stachybotrys chartarum (C) D FriedmanMorgellons Disease or Morgellon's Syndrome

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This article describes Morgellon's Syndrome, a collection of complaints that people believe are traced to unidentified fibers or "bugs" on or in skin, secretions, and their environment.

We include descriptions of the complaints, case histories, and references to additional details about the different types of particles commonly found in the indoor environment.

We include authoritative citations and references to relevant medical journal articles and similar expert sources. Our page top photograph shows a lab photo of ordinary human skin cells, along with some animal dander, fabric fibers stained with acid fuchsin. There are no unusual fibers, bugs, nor other anomalies in this example.

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Morgellon's Disease or Morgellon's Syndrome: health complaints believed to originate in fibers, skin irritation, lesions

What is Morgellon's syndrome or Morgellon's disease?

Skin rash on mold exposure (C) D FriedmanOur photo of an acute skin rash (left) provided by a client was diagnosed as contact dermatitis, not Morgellon's Syndrome.

Discussed here: Mayo Clinic and expert physician provide authoritative comments on Morgellon's Syndrome and psychocutaneous disease. List of Common Symptoms & Complaints that People Associate With Morgellon's Syndrome.

Technical Notes about the contents of house dust. How we compare & identify fiberglass fragments & fabric fibers. Fiberglass Insulation Dust Exposure & Skin Irritation. Lab Experience With the Presence or Absence of Fibers in Skin Samples.

According to the Mayo Clinic Staff,

Morgellons disease is a mysterious skin disorder characterized by disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. Although Morgellons disease isn't widely recognized as a medical diagnosis, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating reports of the condition, which they refer to as unexplained dermopathy.

... Morgellons disease shares characteristics with various recognized conditions, including Lyme disease, liver or kidney disease, schizophrenia, drug or alcohol abuse, and a mental illness involving false beliefs about infestation by parasites (delusional parasitosis - Mayo Clinic [3]

Koblenze r[5] has written extensively about psychocutaneous disease, and has described the history and uniqueness of Morgellon's Syndrome named by Sir Thomas Browne in 1674:

Less well understood are other sensations that patients may describe to us, such as crawling, biting, stinging, pricking, burning, shooting, and so forth. These sensations may be focal or generalized, and while some patients may present to us with no visible change in the skin—those with brachioradial pruritus, for example—others, reporting that the discomfort is relieved only by picking, squeezing, or pulling hair, present with neurotic excoriations, prurigo nodularis, or trichotillomania.

A separate group of patients are those unfortunate few who have an inherent need to ‘‘know’’ and to understand what is going on with their skin. These patients, made very anxious by the vacuum in their knowledge, and perhaps also by their inability to attain relief from professionals will, with great ingenuity, ‘‘create’’ a ‘‘cause’’ for their symptoms, which makes logical sense to them, and with which they can be comfortable. Because of the nature of the sensation, many of these patients believe themselves to have an infection or infestation, and we are of course all familiar with the syndrome of delusions of parasitosis, or Ekbom’s disease, as is described in the two letters.

What is remarkable in Sir Thomas Browne’s description, in the literature references over the past 75 years, and in the complaints of our patients today, is the extraordinary similarities that they all describe—in the quality of the sensory changes experienced, in the level of the patient’s distress, in the various and ingenious interpretations of what may be happening in the skin, and in the ongoing and desperate search for relief. The patients are virtual carbon copies, one of the other.

The clinical picture is unmistakable. The patient is intensely anxious, is obsessively focused on his or her symptoms, brings ‘‘specimens’’ of the offending agent, or agents, and is unshakable in his or her belief as to the cause. Usually there will be a logical explanation of exactly how the infection or infestation was contracted, and the patient will have resorted to the most extreme measures both to eradicate it and to prevent contagion. [5]

List of Common Symptoms & Complaints that People Associate With Morgellon's Syndrome

Mold skin rash found on exposure to high levels of Stachybotrys chartarum (C) D Friedman

We have received quite a few complaints from people who trace a variety of irritations and health concerns to unidentified fibers or dust in their environment and who are confident that that material is causing in turn a variety of unusual health and indoor air quality complaints.

Our photo of a skin lesion (shown at left) is not associated with Morgellon's Syndrome and in fact was traced to an acute exposure to airborne Stachybotrys chartarum.

People who are suffering from Morgellon's Syndrome-like complaints (or for that matter any other medical complaint) should not hesitate to seek expert advice, starting with their own physician who knows their medical history &c., and pursuing their complaint with experts in appropriate fields as needed. Most often your own doctor can give the best advice on seeking treatment or further consultation with suitable experts.

Typical Moregellons'-like complaints we have heard from building inspection clients and readers are summarized below, followed by some case histories and reader comments that may be helpful.

Technical Notes about the Usual Contents of House Dust

The common constituents of house dust are fabric fibers and skin cells, with a lower proportion of incidental pollen, mold, dust mite fecals, and where pets are or have been present, animal dander and hair. Other common but lower frequency particles include starch granules, soil particles, and depending on the building and its mechanicals, soot.

fibers not fiberglass (C) Daniel Friedman fibers not fiberglass (C) Daniel Friedman

Above (left) a client photo shows a heavy and rapid dust accumulation on building surfaces. At above right our lab photo shows that the prime contents of the dust were fabric fibers and starch granules, not building insulation in this case. - DF & WW 6/2010

It is also common to find some fiberglass particles in most buildings, usually traced to building insulation. Carpets in buildings are often a significant source of indoor dust (fabric fibers) as may be other fabrics in environments that use heavy curtains and lots of upholstered furniture.

Readers should note that the level of indoor dust varies widely in buildings building environments. See the following articles for details about building dust:

Comparing fiberglass and fabric fibers

Our lab photos (below) compare fiberglass fragments with fabric fibers.

Certainteed blown in fiberglass (C) Daniel Friedman fibers not fiberglass (C) Daniel Friedman

Fiberglass Insulation Dust Exposure & Skin Irritation

OPINION-DF: various indoor environmental contaminants may in some cases be associated with skin irritation complaints, including exposure of insulation workers to high levels of contact with fiberglass insulation. In our experience skin irritation from fiberglass insulation generally diminishes rapidly and stops within 24-48 hours of bathing and thorough washing of dusty clothing.

Where we most experience as well as receive complaints of skin irritation traced to fiberglass exposure it is by people installing, demolishing, or stomping around on fiberglass building insulation, particularly in older buildings where foot traffic (in an attic without complete flooring for example) or other activities have damaged the insulation, increasing the proportion of small fiberglass fragments.




Lab Experience With the Presence or Absence of Fibers in Skin Samples

In the indoor environmental samples and even some tape samples of skin surfaces where readers or clients have expressed concern or confidence that unidentified fibers are both cause and symptom, using light microscopy and polarized light microscopy to 1200x magnification we have never found identifiable fibers other than incidental house or clothing dust and fabric fibers at normal levels.

In other words, a careful cross-sectional examination of superficial skin samples in using transmitted light microscopy for the samples we have studied showed without exception that fibers in the sample were adhered to the skin's exposed or outer surface; they were not found growing in or through the skin nor originating from inside the body.

Watch out: it is common (and normal) for to find in lab samples collected of from human skin surfaces some fibers such as those coming from from carpeting, clothing, etc., and on occasion other types of fibers, both natural and manmade both on skin and "apparently" embedded in skin samples.

This is particularly true if a surface sample is collected from a sore or lesion as such skin surfaces are typically more sticky than other skin areas.

Such samples can be collected from individuals who have no Morgellon's syndrome complaint as well as people who do. In some cases that we have researched we could identify the probable fiber source by careful comparison of sample fibers to fiber sources in the building such as carpeting or furnishings.

Readers should therefore view with caution photographs published at some websites purporting to provide hard evidence that Morgellon's sufferers indeed have unusual or pathogenic fibers erupting from their skin.

The suggestion of our limited observations is that sufferers from Morgellon's Disease should consult carefully with their physician and if the physician agrees that it is appropriate, ask for a referral to a specialist in environmental medicine.

Notice: the authors & reviewers are not physicians and do not offer medical diagnostic advice. Here we describe common observations & complaints described by some who might be described as suffering from Morgellon's Syndrome. (Also research delusional parasitosis, Ekbom's syndrome)

We have field and laboratory experience in investigation of the indoor environment and building related health complaints and we report here on the experience of a wide readership base, some of whom report undiagnosed skin irritations that the sufferers are confident are traced to unidentified fibers in their environment. Technical review, critique, comments, content suggestions are invited. Please use the Comments Box found at the end of this article. - DF

Itching Conditions in Humans: Recent Research

For skin-related itch and fiber complaints see your doctor.

In February 2014 The New York Times reported on research into conditions that cause itching using an M.R.I. Scanner, giving new insight into why people itch and why scratching relieves itching. Of interest to people suffering from skin complaints described as itching and diagnosed as Morgellon's disease, a subject person of the Times article was noted to suffer from having been mis-diagnosed as having a mental issue treated by antidepressants when in fact the individual had a rare disease causing itching.


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