Uncovering the Cause

Physicians and researchers searching for the cause of Morgellons symptoms often look for common exposures shared by people who believe they have the condition. So far, this includes everything from dirt and ticks to cotton socks and bottled water. Many people with Morgellons also test positive for the tick-transmitted Lyme disease [source: Ho]. It's also believed ticks may transmit bacteria that cause Morgellons-like infections [source: Ho]. As for cotton socks, these seem an unlikely cause. Sure, the fibers that protrude from skin sometimes look like lint balls, but they're not cotton [source: Stobbe]. And, if the bacteria at the root of Morgellons were being introduced in bottled water, as some believe, it likely would have reached epidemic proportions by now [source: Mortellaro].

Morgellons Symptoms: An Itch That Can't be Scratched

Before they seek treatment for Morgellons, most people with these puzzling symptoms simply wonder what it is. Sores that seem to ooze wiry hairs sound bad enough. But when your doctor and the FBI can't identify the cause, it can turn an unsettling situation into an alarming one.

Many people who say they have Morgellons describe a feeling like insects are burrowing underneath their skin. And the skin lesions that accompany this feeling don't seem to discriminate; the sores cover any area of the body -- even parts a person can't easily reach on his or her own. Sometimes, fibers seem to erupt from the lesions, either as single strands or as twisted spherical balls of fiber. Some people describe having gritty-feeling granules on their skin or on the interior of their eyelids; a few believe the granules to be eggs laid by the bugs under their skin. Some awaken to bed sheets littered with black specks that have shed from their skin. There are reports of hair loss, vision loss and periodontal disease [source: Than]. Others have all, just one or a varied combination of these symptoms [source: Savely].

The majority of self-reporting Morgellons patients also describe attention deficits, "brain fog" and disabling fatigue. Some add joint pain or difficulty sleeping to the list [source: Savely]. Others begin to feel like they're going crazy [source: Morgellons Research Organization].

People are clearly dealing with something. The question is: What? The Morgellons mystery has a "chicken or the egg" riddle at its core. Is it a physical disease that drives people to develop psychiatric symptoms or the other way around [source: Savely]. Whatever the case, the symptoms can be so intense -- with such little relief -- that some have committed suicide [source: Williamson].

For those who do seek help for the itching and stinging sensations, as well as the skin lesions, there often aren't easy answers. Find out why on the next page.