Thu 16 May 2013
Summary: Recently we received a worrying question from a reader about her brother, who we are told has white worms underneath his skin. The worms only "come out of sores," which we suppose means that the worms are found only in ruptured parts of the skin. We are not sure if there is a relationship between the wounds and the white worms under the skin; in other words, it is unclear if the worms are thought to be causing the sores, or if the wounds are incurred some other way, and then the worms are found in them. The reader was of course wondering what the worms underneath the skin and in the sores of her brother are.
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Recently we received a worrying question from a reader about her brother, who we are told has white worms underneath his skin. The worms only “come out of sores,” which we suppose means that the worms are found only in ruptured parts of the skin. We are not sure if there is a relationship between the wounds and the white worms under the skin; in other words, it is unclear if the worms are thought to be causing the sores, or if the wounds are incurred some other way, and then the worms are found in them. The reader was of course wondering what the worms underneath the skin and in the sores of her brother are.
We could literally ask dozens of questions of clarification about this question. All but the most basic facts are omitted, and the reader’s entire email consists of one short sentence. We already indicated above that we aren’t sure what role (if any) the worms are playing in the reader’s brother’s sores, and we have lots of other questions about how long this has been happening, what exactly the worms look like, and so on. But all of this is at the moment of secondary importance, as our main response to our reader’s question is this: seek professional help when you are experiencing medical problems, and worms in a sore is definitely a medical problem that needs attention as soon as possible. We can help with a lot of worm-related questions, but we are not medical doctors, and it would be reckless of us to even begin to offer anything like medical advice.
We can never offer medical guidance, and in this case we can only offer some general information because the reader’s question was short on details. To begin, humans can be afflicted with worms, but generally in such a way that the person’s digestive system is compromised, as is the case with pinworms (the most common human worm infection) and hookworms. The only worms that we know of that are associated with wounds are screw worms, which are actually fly larvae (and so not technically worms.) Screw worm infections occur after an animal has been wounded, thus allowing a screw worm fly to lay eggs in the sore. They don’t as often afflict humans because we generally dress our wounds, and moreover these flies have been eradicated from several countries, so it might not even be possible for our reader’s brother to have this problem. On the other hand, screw worms do burrow (“screw”) themselves into their host, so we suppose this could possibly explain the worms-under-the-skin feeling of our reader’s brother (but of course we are not claiming that we think he has a screw worm infection – only a medical doctor can or should do that).
For the sake of completeness, we should mention that this feeling of worms under the skin is often associated with the very strange Morgellons disease, which is believed by many to be a delusion infestation, which is to say that it is believed to be a psychological problem, not a physical one. The thinking goes that when people are experiencing symptoms associated with Morgellons, they often have a common skin disease, and then interpret fibers (from clothing, say) in their sores as live creatures. These fibers are generally black, however, perhaps because they are more noticeable, and you’ll recall the reader’s brother is experiencing problems with white worms.
Once more, our only unequivocal advice to our reader is that she should seek medical advice for her brother. We’ve provided some information about worms and humans, but it shouldn’t be construed as medical advice. We’ve simply come across these worms before when researching articles, so we know a little bit about them, but obviously not enough to diagnose any sort of the problem.