Imaginary Bugs Often Blamed for Itchy Skin
Delusional bug syndrome is associated with people who believe bugs, worms or other insects are infesting their skin, causing them itching sensations. Often, these people seek medical advice, bringing in samples of the insect and requesting a skin biopsy. However, new research has found that for the majority of patients, neither skin samples or biopsies show any evidence of skin infestation.
In a recent study, which was published online in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic tested 108 people with symptoms of delusional parasitosis (infection with a parasite). They found the majority of self-provided skin samples from patients were clean.
Of the 80 self-provided specimens, 10 were confirmed to be insects, but nine of those were not capable of infestation. One person brought in a sample of pubic lice. This lice is capable of infestation but does not cause head-to-toe body itching. The majority of skin samples were dead skin, plant material or environmental debris.
More than 60 percent of the people tested were diagnosed with dermatitis, a skin problem primarily characterized by inflamed, itchy skin.
Although no one knows how many people suffer from delusional skin infestations, researchers say it is a common skin complaint.