Ekbom Syndrome, when bugs 'invade' your body

The delirium of parasitism is when one has the sensation that insects are crawling on or under their skin. The persons suffers from ‘formication’ which literally means ant in Latin and it is a tactile hallucination. This means that the sufferer of this psychosis feels a physical sensation which doesn’t actually exist. This feeling may cause itching, which could get worse at night and may be severe enough to affect the quality of life of the sufferer.

Feeling skin sensations without physical stimulation is a type of paresthesia, which can also include burning, tingling, numbness and feeling cold. This strange delirium is related to other medical conditions, as well as the withdrawal of some drugs and substances (such as cocaine, heroin, some antidepressants or analgesics such as codeine and morphine). Abstinence from alcohol can also cause it.

All those with Ekbom syndrome believe, with great conviction, that they have parasites on their skin for a long time, even after being presented with medical proof that this is not the case. If these conditions occur, a situation where the subject is unable to see reality, the alteration would be classified as a delusional disorder proper.

Causes of Ekbom syndrome

-Parkinson's disease





-Lyme disease

-diabetic neuropathy

-skin cancer


It is possible that low levels of oestrogen during peri-menopause and menopause may also cause this delirium.


Treatment for formation depends on the underlying cause. A topical cream, such as hydrocortisone, may decrease itching in some people. Moisturising or barrier creams may also help keep skin healthy and hydrated.

It is also advisable to place an ice pack on the affected areas, which may provide a calming effect for immediate relief.

If the cause of the formation is Parkinson's disease, herpes zoster, or fibromyalgia, a specialist will prescribe the appropriate medication.

If the cause is a side effect from a certain type of medication, doctors will recommend alternatives such as an antihistamine, which may help reduce the sensations of the formation.

Possible complications

If a person experiences this delusional-type disorder, he or she may be prone to constant scratching, which can break the skin and allow bacteria to enter and possibly cause infections to develop.

Possible complications of scratching include




-blood loss

-in severe cases, sepsis

Other complications of the training include: tiredness, frustration, poor quality of sleep, depression, anxiety, trouble concentrating or feeling stiff.

It is important to seek medical advice for any complications as feeling tired or depressed can worsen the formation.

Ekbom syndrome is a symptom of an underlying condition as we have seen, so full treatment of this condition should normally eliminate the symptoms. The condition can be physical, psychological, or substance abuse related. If the cause is not apparent, detection of possible conditions may detect something previously undiagnosed. Therefore, talking openly and honestly with a doctor will allow them to develop a personalised treatment plan to improve the condition as soon as possible.

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