Phantom bugs

first_imgBy April ReeseUniversity of GeorgiaIn the summer, mosquitos, biting flies and fleas can visit yourskin and leave behind itching bumps from their bites. Somepeople, though, are haunted year-round by biting bugs that aren’teven there.They suffer from something called delusory parasitosis, saidNancy Hinkle, an entomologist with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”We’re finding it in all segments of the population — all agegroups, all socioeconomic levels,” Hinkle said. “And theincidence seems to be very high.”Delusory parasitosis is a real condition first described inmedical literature more than a century ago. Hinkle said theillness isn’t uncommon at all.Many medical causesIt can be caused by many other medical ailments — heavy metalpoisoning, exposure to toxins and diseases like AIDS, anemia,carcinoma, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, lupus, lymphoma andmultiple sclerosis.Nutritional deficiencies, allergies, drug reactions, menopause,niacin overdose, rheumatoid arthritis, stress and even vitaminoverdoses are known to trigger it, she said.Symptoms include the sensation of biting, stinging or itching onthe skin. Hinkle said people will often feel something crawlinginside their skin and will dig into the skin trying to find anddislodge whatever’s causing it.”Unfortunately, this can produce a lot of damage to the skin,”she said.Feels like … Chigger bites are close to what sufferers might feel. People whohave been chigger-bitten can relate to the feeling thatsomething’s still in there. But delusory parasitosis sufferersfeel something different, she said, as if that something undertheir skin is moving or crawling around.People will treat the condition in a number of ways. “Some willspend inordinate amounts of time washing and cleaning theirbodies and their homes, assuming the infestation is coming fromoff the body as well,” Hinkle said.”They will then treat their bodies with … gasoline, kerosene,solvents, harsh cleaning compounds, even pesticides,” she said,”which, of course, is very dangerous.”See a doctorShe advises anyone who believes they’re suffering from thecondition to see a doctor.”Delusory parasitosis is a medical condition, and (sufferers)should seek medical attention,” she said. “Visit your physicianand explain the symptoms you’re experiencing. Allow the doctor todiagnosis the condition and prescribe medication. Don’tself-medicate.”To learn more about delusory parasitosis, visit www.ent.uga.edu/publications/delusory.pdfto read Hinkle’s article in American Entomologist.(April Reese is a student writer with the University ofGeorgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img

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