IT STARTED out with a bit of itching. Carol Evans and her family assumed it was down to fleas from their cats.
But Carol’s itching became so bad she barely left the house and thought about starving herself to death.
And the 52-year-old from Chandler’s Ford was so desperate that she showered three times a night and even took medicine intended for horses.
Carol also bought creams from overseas that are illegal in the UK which caused hallucinations – and spent thousands of pounds trying to find a treatment.
Sinking into depression, she even chopped off her long hair so she could put creams on her scalp.
Her symptoms included acute itching that was so bad at night that she took to sleeping in the daytime, and she found microscopic fibres on her skin that she believes were parasites coming out of her pores.
Internet research revealed people around the world reporting the same symptoms, which include finding tiny fibres on the skin and in lesions – a condition known to some as Morgellons disease.
But medical professionals believe that no such condition exists and that it is psychological, not physical.
After seeing four different doctors, Carol gave up on finding help from the medical profession for the condition.
Her nightmare began in December 2011 when the family realised that their two cats had fleas and found they were also itching.
“I started to feel that things were crawling on me. I thought it was in the furniture. I didn’t realise they were actually on me,” says Carol.
“We had the house fumigated and moved out for a week. We also replaced the sofas. I took one of the cats to the vet because she was getting bald patches. It’s normally mites that cause that. She was treated and was fine, but I was left itching.”
She saw her GP who said if her itching was down to cat mites it would pass within a few months, but Carol’s symptoms just got worse.
“It was keeping me up the whole night. It was like there were things crawling under my skin. I would get up and shower three times a night because it gave me comfort for a couple of hours, but then it would start up again.
“Eventually I would sleep all day and stay up at night because they were more active in the night, which I found is very common with parasites.
“I was depressed. I don’t believe in suicide because I’m a Christian, but I thought ‘if this isn’t gone in a few months, I can’t take anymore and I’m going to starve myself to death or something’.
“I know that sounds terrible but I couldn’t handle it anymore.
“I saw four doctors but they just thought I was imagining things. I spent hours on the Internet doing research, studying about mites.
“I came across a lot of people who had this thing called Morgellons but I ignored it because they were talking about fibres coming out of their skin and I didn’t think I had that.”
Carol spent more than £1,000 on different treatments, trying anything she could think of that seemed like it might combat parasites or mites or relieve itching –including dog shampoo, lice and scabies treatments, something that sent a charge of electricity through her skin, medicine from America, a cream from Barbados that caused hallucinations, lime sulphur which is used on horses and horse worming medicine.
Much of this was painful and, she admits, potentially dangerous.
“The thought was there that it could be bad for my health but the Morgellons symptoms were so tormenting that it was worth the risk to get rid of it. Normally I wouldn’t dream of taking my horse’s medicine but I was desperate.”
After using a particular treatment – a combination of Vaseline and tea tree oil – Carol noticed tiny dots on her skin, like black grains of salt.
Later she took photographs of her skin under magnification and found what looked like tiny worms and also coloured fibres in a lesion, which she believes were coming out of her skin.
She thinks that she was infested by a parasite from her cats, perhaps a new kind or one that is behaving differently as a result of genetically modified produce entering the food stream.
“I grew up in Africa where you get parasites that grow under your skin. To me it’s logical that Morgellons is a parasite that lays eggs under your skin that hatch into worms. They obviously make some kind of cocoon, which is what I think the fibres are.”
Eventually, having tried numerous treatments, her Internet research led her to a combination of remedies which have helped.
She cut out sugar and yeast from her diet, having read that parasites could be feeding on this and takes neem oil, which is thought to be antimicrobial and an insect repellent, garlic oil, vitamins and a cream for itching.
Her severe symptoms lasted for around seven months and she began to feel much better last August.
“It took me longer mentally to get back to normal,” she says.
“I wasn’t going out, I wasn’t doing housework, I wasn’t eating properly. I lost interest in everything – I was so depressed. My normal life changed so much and I didn’t go back to that overnight.
“I still feel stuff in my skin but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was.
“It’s really important to raise awareness about this, especially among doctors,” she adds.
“I can’t be the only person in the city who has suffered this.”
Today Carol looks happy and healthy, with long hair extensions while she waits for her hair to grow back, and looking forward to a holiday.
“I’d say my life is pretty much back to normal now. I’m still taking the treatment everyday – I will until it’s gone.”
What is Morgellons Disease?
Sufferers of Morgellons believe that it is an epidemic, afflicting thousands of people worldwide, with the chief symptoms being unbearable itching, fibres coming out of the skin and lesions.
But the medical community says that it is a case of mass hysteria, spread via the Internet through chat rooms and web pages devoted to the condition.
It was named Morgellons in 2001 by an American woman called Mary Leitao.
When her son complained of sores around his mouth and the sensation of ‘bugs,’ she examined him with a toy microscope, Leitao found him to be covered in unexplained red, blue, black and white fibres.
Sufferers believe that these fibres have come from their skin, but the medical community argues that they are from clothing, animal fur and other such environmental sources.