Morgellons disease: experiences of an integrated multidisciplinary dermatology team to achieve positive outcomes.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

In recent years, there has been a reported increase in affliction of the skin with small fibres or other particles. The condition has been referred to as Morgellons disease. Patients present with stinging, burning or crawling sensations of the skin, with perceived extrusion of inanimate material alongside fatigue and other systemic symptoms. Sufferers often experience significant morbidity and reduction in quality of life.

OBJECTIVES

We aimed to explore the various clinical presentations, management strategies and outcomes employed to treat this condition in our patients.

METHODS

We conducted a retrospective case notes review of 35 patients referred to our multidisciplinary psycho-dermatology clinic at the Royal London Hospital between January 2004 and January 2017.

RESULTS

The majority of patients were women (25) 71.4%, with a mean age of 54.6 years (26-80 years). Most (26) 74.2% were living alone. The average duration of illness prior to presentation was 3.8 years (4 months-20 years). Many patients had perceived precipitating factors (54.2%) and often self-diagnosed (28.5%). Psychiatric co-morbidities included 42.8% with depressive symptoms and 25.7% with anxiety. Substance misuse was elicited in five patients (14%). Management of patients included both the treatment of skin disease and psychosocial co-morbidities. Out of the 35 patients who attended (14) 40% cleared or showed significant improvement. Sixteen (45.7%) patients were stable and under review. One patient declined treatment and three did not attend review. One patient died from disease unrelated to her skin condition.

CONCLUSIONS

Morgellons disease is a condition, which is widely discussed on the internet and patients often self-diagnose. The course of the disease can be chronic and debilitating. For a positive outcome, it is important that a strong physican-patient relationship is cultivated. As demonstrated in this case series, managing patients holistically in an integrated multidisciplinary dermatology setting helps achieve positive outcomes.

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