Reading Pravda still messes with my mind. For the first half of my life (so far) this Soviet publication was a Cold War joke — something a righteous American couldn’t read without feeling resoundingly superior and possibly humming The Star-Spangled Banner. But the days of Steel Joe and Nikki Boy Kruschev are long passed. Now, when I want information about the “emerging disease” Morgellons, I go to Pravda.
But lest you think reading Pravda is no longer an exotic experience laced with Siberian weirdness and plenty Huh!?, just check out the first graf of the Pravarama’s 13.04.2011 article on today’s 10 Most Mysterious Diseases:
There is a great deal of illnesses, which can be cured easily. However, there is a list of well-known illnesses to which scientists still have not found a clue. They are still incurable.
I will grudgingly admit that scientists still have not found a clue, but they are far from incurable. Just loudly express your opinion on the Pentagon cover-up of the proof of intelligent design, and whenever you say the word “science,” be sure to put it in air quotes — and sometimes say “western science” for additional clinical impact. That should get rid of any scientists in the vicinity. For post-eradication maintenance, a blank stare is mandated, though that will not protect you against the frequently co-morbid affliction, “pseudo-scientists.”
Regardless, though, it’s only Pravda that has the massive babushkas to take on the dreaded Morgellons Disease, which they place at #10 on their list:
The symptoms of this mysterious ailment remind a scene from a sci-fi thriller. Patients say that they can feel something crawling underneath their skin. The condition is characterized by a range of skin symptoms including crawling, biting, and stinging sensations; finding fibers on or under the skin; and persistent skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores). Most doctors, including dermatologists and psychiatrists, regard Morgellons as a manifestation of known medical conditions, including delusional parasitosis.
Marked by unexplained stinging, biting, or crawling sensations on the skin, and sometimes by unexplained sores, marks, or lesions, Morgellons sometimes is claimed to present with fibers extruding from the skin. All studies of these materials that made it into (real) medical labs have thus far shown no abnormal tissue. There have been photos I’ve seen of tissues claiming to be Morgellons fibers — that are pretty clearly, just from a snapshot, something akin to carpet fibers. The possibility remains, of course, that some Morgellons sufferers have fibroid growths of some sort. Others, however, appear to have garden-variety skin ailments. Still others, as far as I can tell, are either totally nuts, or at least appear that way on the internet.
Morgellons appears — at a casual look — to be a set of conveniently-mutable symptoms rather than a disease. That doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility that something about it is real, though. I always try to come back to the principle of Occam’s Razor when it comes to any public health issue — especially in the paranormal arena. But I’ve known enough people with ill-defined, little-understood, difficult-to-treat diseases like fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity to know that such a principle doesn’t always work.
Sometimes diseases just aren’t simple, and medicine doesn’t have the answer — yet. So while I’m deeply skeptical of Morgellons being anything more than a grouping of unrelated phenomena, I’m credulous about plenty of other diseases that are better-documented — but still little-understood. If Morgellons is a syndrome or set of syndromes that encompass a wide variety of misdiagnoses, underdiagnoses, and self-diagnoses, then how much more screwed up would it be if its symptoms are the misplaced or misinterpreted symptoms of real diseases (like chemical sensitivities) that medicine rarely properly diagnoses — at least on first pass?
Or do Morgellons sufferers just have a space disease?
Other hypotheses include the view that Morgellons is caused by chemtrails, Smart Dust or other nanotech — most of which center on it being some kind of government experiment, generally in conjunction with the New World Order. One person thinks Morgellons fibers are the same as the fibers in U.S. currency. There’s also Arthrobotrys oligospora and Aspergillus niger. Insects. Worms. Here’s more chemtrails. Still more nanotechnology. There’s also a proposed possibility called “foot morgs,” in which at least one commenter sees visions of skulls, and others have mentioned a connection to biblical apocalyptic images in foot morgs and other manifestations of Morgellons sores — making, them in a way, vaguely related to stigmata. Someone with the Flickr name KAISER HOSPITAL IS KILLING ME has a bunch of truly disturbing images labeled Morgellons here — presumably samples taken from open wounds. Don’t look if you don’t want med student’s disease. Morgellons conspiracy theories are often tied to plans for global depopulation and, occasionally, NPR. Incidentally, Joni Mitchell claims to have Morgellons, just in case you were wondering. There’s even a very wiggy-looking book about Morgellons by someone named Commander X.
The conspiracy theories are trippy, man, but are they obscuring a real disorder? The two competing supported medical views are that Morgellons is either an unexplained dermopathy — a disease of the skin — or, as Pravda says, it’s a form of delusional parasitosis — that is, the delusional belief that one is inflicted with parasites — spread at least partially by social networking and websites.
No, this isn’t tech paranoia — I’m serious. This may be one of those cases where a phobia of technology is justified. Reading about a possibly fictional disease on the internet can potentially cause someone to self-diagnose a different ailment — something more common, and treatable — as something new. Does that mean they’re not sick? No, not necessarily. Someone with delusional parasitosis may be misinterpreting very real symptoms, or ascribing to, for instance, Morgellons, manifestations of something already documented by medicine. They may then reject a medical professional’s opinion. What that means is that they might not get treatment for a disease they really have, which would have been merely annoying if it had been properly treated. Without treatment, it becomes crippling.
Is there a real disease inside all this misdiagnosis, confusion and delusion? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
Morgellons perplexes pathologists (and sufferers) because its symptoms are so ill-defined. If you just do a Google image search on Morgellons (as shown at the top of this piece), you see an assortment of what are clearly different skin conditions. That seems to point toward delusional parasitosis, or at least the misinterpretation of symptoms by people who are not delusional at all — just not qualified pathologists.
But what do I know? I’ve got a bad case of the Chronic Dopamine Squirt Disorder, and every time I write an article about it…some asshat on the internet makes fun of me. Same here, buddy.