Introduction

Delusional Parasitosis

Delusional Parasitosis is a mistaken belief that one is being infested by parasites such as mites, lice, fleas, spiders, worms, bacteria, or other organisms. (If of interest, please read from the sufferer's view.) This site has been created in an attempt to centralize accurate information on this misunderstood and increasingly common syndrome.

Definition

Delusional Parasitosis, Delusional Infestation or Ekbom's Syndrome is a relatively uncommon disorder in which sufferers hold a delusional belief they are infested with parasites. A related symptom involving a tactile hallucination of insects, snakes, or other vermin crawling over the skin is known as formication. The origin of this word is from the Latin formica, meaning "ant".

Delusional parasitosis is not to be confused with Wittmaack-Ekbom or Restless Legs Syndrome. Unfortunately, this is also referred to as "Ekbom's Syndrome", which leads to confusion. It is named after a Swedish neurologist, Karl Axel Ekbom, who published seminal accounts of the disease in 1937 and 1938.

The sufferer of delusional parasitosis typically reports parasites in or on the skin, around or inside body openings, in the stomach or bowels and may include a belief that the parasites infest the sufferer's home, surroundings or clothing.

A person holding this belief may approach numerous doctors and other professionals asking for treatment for the supposed infestation, and will often bring small particles, dust, skin flakes and other material for the doctor to inspect. Since the material may be carried in an envelope or matchbox, this presentation of sample materials has come to be known as the "matchbox sign."

Stimulant drug abuse, particularly methamphetamine and cocaine, can lead to delusional parasitosis. For example, excessive cocaine use can lead to a syndrome nicknamed "cocaine bugs" where the affected person believes he has, or feels parasites crawling under his skin. Chronic methamphetamine abusers are often called tweakers because they pick at their skin. These conditions are also associated with high fevers and extreme alcohol withdrawal, often associated with visual hallucinations of insects.

People suffering from these conditions may self-mutilate, scratching themselves to the point where they can cause serious skin damage and bleeding, especially if they are delirious or intoxicated.