Singer Joni Mitchell was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday. While what caused her to be found unconscious is still unknown to the public, the New York Times points out that Mitchell has said in the past she has a disease known as Morgellons. But what is it?
Morgellons is a syndrome where people feel like something is right under their skin, or trying to come out of it. People who have the disorder will describe pulling “fibers” and other tiny objects like “specks, granules, dots, worms, sand, eggs, fuzz balls and larvae” through their skin. This can leave lesions and scars on their body.
Morgellons is not very well understood and is controversial within the medical community. It’s clear people who say they have Moregellons are suffering from something, but many doctors think it’s a psychological rather than physical condition. Research trying to determine what the disorder is has been very inconclusive.
“I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space, but my health’s the best it’s been in a while,” Mitchell told the Los Angles Times in 2010. “Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm: they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer — a terrorist disease: it will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year.”
Mitchell said at the time that she planned to get out of the music business and help raise awareness—and gain credibility—for the disease.
In 2012, the CDC published a study that tried to determine what is going on. It was part of a $600,000 project launched in 2008 in response to massive interest in the syndrome. The researchers studied skin biopsies and urine and blood samples to see if they could determine a common cause. They basically concluded that they didn’t buy it: “No common underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified, similar to more commonly recognized conditions such as delusional infestation.”
The condition is rare, with the CDC determining that about 4 out of every 100,000 people in the 3.2 million person population they studied had it. Only 115 people were identified in that study with symptoms similar to the disorder.
It’s obvious that people with Morgellons are experiencing something that’s truly taking a toll on their quality of life. Not having answers and lacking credibility is a large part of the problem, and something Mitchell hoped to combat.