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Parasitosis is the feeling that one is being bitten or is infected by unseen parasites. Skin irritation may be present, or the patient may feel sudden sharp pains that mimic bites. Illusory parasitosis has numerous causes, but tends not to be caused by unseen bugs. Actual parasite infection of the skin by an unseen parasite is usually limited to contraction of scabies.
Delusional parasitosis, on the other hand, is usually caused either by excessive use of hallucinatory or amphetamine based drugs, or by mental illness. In this condition, those affected may feel they have bugs crawling on them, pins and needles sensations, or feel like they are being bitten. Usually, this type leaves no marks, though patients may scratch their skin and thus cause irritation.
Illusory parasitosis is difficult to treat because skin irritations may result from a number of causes. The patient may show skin irritation, skin bumps, express the feeling that they are being bit, or feel overall itchiness. They may also express that they feel as if bugs are crawling all over them.
Some main causes may be exposure to known skin irritants like household chemicals, or cosmetics. Often the substances causing this condition cause allergies in the patients. Toxic substances in the environment like fiberglass or a polluted air system may also cause the skin to be ruptured. Even the relative dryness of the air or very hot days can result in skin irritation.
Usually, this condition is treated by finding the cause. This may include finding out what type of chemicals those affected use to clean, and will usually include skin testing to determine allergies. When an allergy is determined, treatment or removal of the allergy causing substance can cure the condition. If environmental factors are the cause, those exposed to irritants like fiberglass may need to wear different apparatus to work in order to limit exposure.
Delusional parasitosis tends not to be treated by skin experts or dermatologists, since the cause is mental illness or abuse of drugs or medications. Usually those affected persist in their belief that certain bugs are attacking and feeding on them. When those with illusory parasitosis are told about potential factors or allergies that can cause irritation, they will usually believe this. The person with the delusional type will not believe this and insist upon their theory that microscopic bugs are causing the problem.
Some cases of delusional parasitosis are transitory, occurring after taking a hallucinogen, or excess amphetamine. When the drug clears from the person’s system, the feeling leaves as well. Long term use of amphetamines, can cause this feeling to be present at all times, essentially inducing mental illness.
Manic states of bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia are common causes of delusional parasitosis. For those affected, the feelings are quite real, resulting in many scratching their skin to the point where it can bleed or become infected. Treatment for cases due to mental illness tends to include administration of anti-psychotic medications to help the patient recover from his or her delusion. Where drug use is the cause, helping the patient recover from such use can usually end the feeling of being bitten.