Morgellons Disease: Is It a Real or Delusional Condition?

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Also known by the acronym MD, Morgellons disease is a skin condition in which filaments or fibers appear to be stuck within or coming out of one's skin, often with accompanying lesions. The fibers are made of keratin and collagen and are produced by the body in response to Lyme infection.

In the past, Morgellons was erroneously thought to be a psychosomatic problem, and patients were dismissed as not having an actual physical ailment. That is no longer the case, as further research has been conducted in recent years showing the disease to be real. One study notes that "MD is a true somatic illness associated with tickborne infection."

Diagnosis of Morgellons Disease

Morgellons is diagnosed based on the following symptoms. Patients can present with one or all of these issues to be diagnosed with MD:

  • Slow-healing skin lesions
  • The appearance of fibers emitting from one's skin
  • Crawling or biting sensations on or inside the skin

It's important to note that patients with Morgellons disease may experience other symptoms of Lyme disease in addition to Morgellons symptoms. These include, but are not limited to, fever, headaches, joint pain, rashes, jaw pain and tightness, and brain fog.

Cause of Morgellons Disease

Studies have shown that Morgellons disease is caused by Lyme disease, a tick bite infection that can persist for long periods of time in people and can present with many different symptoms. Lyme disease can be caught early if you notice you were bit by a tick or you get a bulls eye rash around where one bit you. The rash is called that because it appears similar to a bull's eye, with the bite at the center of the rash and a concentric ring surrounding the central area of redness.

However, it's also common not to know that you were bit. Deer ticks, the type that carry Lyme, can be incredibly small and scarcely the size of a pinprick. If you do not know that you were bit, and you do not receive treatment in a timely manner, you can develop a more serious and longer lasting version of Lyme known as post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) or chronic Lyme disease (CLD) that can be much more difficult to treat.

Treatment for Morgellons Disease

There is no specific treatment for Morgellons disease. It is customarily treated by treating Lyme disease. Treatment for Lyme disease may take the following forms.


When a person has been bit by a deer tick, a healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics even before any symptoms, such as a fever or bull's eye rash, are present. These are often prescribed for anywhere from one to four weeks. Antibiotics are also generally prescribed for later stages of Lyme disease when a person does not know they were bit by a tick.

There is a lot of controversy over how long antibiotics should be prescribed and how long Lyme symptoms may persist despite antibiotic treatment. So many people have issues treating and healing Lyme disease with conventional antibiotic methods that entire organizations, such as the Lyme Disease Association, exist to help with patient advocacy and treatment access. An entire page of that website is dedicated to the varying controversies over Lyme Disease treatment.

Holistic, Eastern, and Alternative Treatments

Some patients who do not experience full relief of their symptoms of Lyme disease, which can include Morgellons disease, opt instead to try holistic, Eastern medicine, or alternative treatments to heal Lyme disease. There is significant controversy around many of these treatments.

That said, studies are emerging that show natural treatments for Lyme disease may be effective including plant remedies. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have also been shown to help potentially. Studies are underway for other alternative modalities, such as radio frequency and infrared therapies.

Supplemental Behavioral Therapy

Psychotherapy cannot heal a disease, but it can help a person who is going through one. This is particularly true for someone who has experienced an illness where they may not have been believed about their symptoms. For decades, MD was dismissed as a psychosomatic condition and patients were treated as if their problems were purely in their minds.

For anyone who has experienced dismissal by a medical professional, it's natural to have frustration and upset feelings. One could even become depressed or anxious about their condition when it seems there is no hope of getting a diagnosis.

In these situations, adding a form of psychotherapy to your treatment plan may help in healing. Even if providers believed that you were presenting with symptoms, therapy might still be wise. An illness is a difficult journey that can easily take a toll on your ongoing mental health and well-being.

Coping With Morgellons Disease

Because there is no specific treatment for Morgellons disease, and because it is only in recent years that providers have believed patients about their symptoms, living with this illness may be difficult. Here are steps you can take to cope with MD.

See a Lyme-Literate Medical Doctor

Known by the acronym LLMD, a Lyme-literate medical doctor is one who is educated about the varying complexities and symptoms of Lyme disease. This is your best bet to get an accurate diagnosis of Morgellons disease by way of getting an accurate diagnosis of Lyme.

Lyme spirochetes are not visible under all forms of light, and false negatives are very common. A Lyme-literate doctor can get you the correct testing for an accurate diagnosis.

Find Community

Particularly for those who were not believed by their doctors, finding others with your symptoms may help you to cope with them.

Online communities for those with Morgellons disease, like that of Stuff That Works, can bring patients together to discuss treatment and coping mechanisms for MD. Engaging with others who also have MD may help you feel less alone, help you find treatment modalities, and can help normalize your illness as a part of your life, not something that defines you.

A Word From Verywell

Gender disparities exist in health care, and in recent years the medical community has begun to speak up about it, acknowledging that women often receive substandard care and are less scientifically studied than men.

If you are a woman, you may have to advocate harder and more persistently for your health and wellness than a man would for Morgellons disease, among other ailments and conditions.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Middelveen MJ, Bandoski C, Burke J, et al. Exploring the association between Morgellons disease and Lyme disease: identification of Borrelia burgdorferi in Morgellons disease patients. BMC Dermatol. 2015;15:1. doi:10.1186/s12895-015-0023-0

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease home.

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  5. Chronic Lime Disease can make patients profoundly debilitated.

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  10. Find a Lyme disease specialist.

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.

Originally written by
Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Naveed Saleh, MD

Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, is a medical writer and editor covering new treatments and trending health news.

Learn about our editorial process