Joni Mitchell Has Morgellons Disease—Here’s What That Means

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On February 4, celebrated singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, 80, will be performing at the 2024 Grammy Awards ceremony for the first time in her more than 50-year career, the Grammys announced in a news release.

In addition to performing at the award show, Joni is also nominated for a Grammy in the Best Folk Album Category for her 2023 album, Joni Mitchell at Newport [Live]. The nine-time Grammy Award winner’s nominated album is a recording of her set from the 2022 Newport Folk Festival —a surprise performance and her first time taking the stage after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, per NPR.

In a 2017 biography, Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe, Joni revealed that she was battling a mysterious illness called Morgellons disease. “I have this weird, incurable disease that seems like it’s from outer space,” she said in the book.

With her historic performance approaching, you might be wondering what exactly Morgellons disease is and what Joni has had to deal with over the years. Ahead, here’s everything to know about Morgellons.

What is Morgellons disease?

There’s not much information available about the condition, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it an “unexplained dermatopathy” or skin disease, per the Mayo Clinic.

The disease involves the “belief that parasites or fibers are emerging from the skin,” making it feel like something is crawling, biting, or pinching the skin, and creating an intense itching feeling, the Mayo Clinic explains.

Doctors don’t agree on the origin of the disease. Some medical experts think Morgellons is a physical illness, while others believe it to be a type of psychosis that they call “delusional parasitosis,” (a.k.a. the person thinks parasites have infected their skin), per WebMD.

What are the symptoms of Morgellons disease?

According to the Mayo Clinic, people suffering from Morgellons may experience the following symptoms:

  • Skin rashes or sores that create an intense itching feeling

  • Crawling sensations on or under the skin

  • Some will have the belief that fibers, threads, or black stringy materials are present on or under the skin

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Depression

  • Muscle and joint pain

In a 2012 study, CDC researchers were unable to find “a common underlying medical condition or infectious agent” in people experiencing Morgellons symptoms, per Medical News Today.

And while some skin samples from participants in a 2015 Morgellons study uncovered some “fiber-like materials,” upon further evaluation, researchers concluded that the fibers were actually from naturally occurring hair follicles, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

What causes Morgellons?

Unfortunately, the cause isn’t clear, but the condition could potentially be related to Lyme disease. In the same 2015 study mentioned above, researchers found Lyme disease present in 24 out of the 25 Morgellons patients being studied.

“The scientific community is divided between those who believe it is a purely psychological disorder and those who believe it may be due to a pathogen,” Medical News Today reports.

What is the treatment for Morgellons disease?

Once diagnosed with Morgellons, treatment plans vary depending on what the doctor pinpoints as the cause. Blood tests and skin samples are usually taken, and a treatment plan is created once results come back.

Some doctors may suggest using antibiotics if they suspect a bacterial infection or a tick-borne illness. Treatment may also be provided if there are any opened or long-lasting skin lesions, according to Medical News Today.

Often, those in the medical field who label the condition as delusion or a mental illness will treat it with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and cognitive behavioral therapy, per Mayo Clinic.

Is it curable?

Since Morgellons disease is poorly understood, there is no cure for it.

How common is Morgellons?

Over 14,000 people have been affected by the disease, according to Medical News Today.

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