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My mother has been seeing bugs (she calls fleas) for over two years. She vacuums constantly and washes clothes continually. Her house is immaculate due to her excessive cleaning. We have even disposed of her complete wardrobe and started over again with he clothing protected by plastic bags and footlockers.

Every exterminator in the area has been to her house. They end treating her house at her insistence after telling her they do not see anything. Nothing shows up on bug traps. The exterminators will not return to her house.

She has scratched herself raw in many areas of her body. She swears she is not hallucinating and will not seek medical help because she is embarrassed by the idea that she has bugs. I am at the end of my rope here since I can not get her to tell her medical or eye doctor.

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Michabele, the original posting was from 5 years ago, I don't believe the original writer is still on-line.

Sometimes an Urinary Tract Infection can cause people to see bugs. My Dad was seeing ants all over his apartment even though there were none. He was tested positive for a UTI, and after taking the required meds those bugs went away :)
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Hi
I am 45.
I am going through something similar now.
Did you find out why?
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I'm with Eddie and Kattie, definitely have your mom checked for side effects of whatever medications she is being prescribed. Plus, you should write down the names of those medications and look up their side effects on the web. This might help you identify if seeing bugs is a result of the medication, then you can go from there and possibly help your mom.
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I'm with Kattie. ... Definitely check out the side effects of whatever medications she's taking. After undergoing life-saving for a car crash in 1996, too much morphine caused me to see parakeets of different colors flying above me. First I tried to grab them, then I was swatting at them because they were pooping on my face. Nurses said there was nothing there. I called them blind.
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The case studies in the Medical Journal of Australia is the best bit I've seen on the disorder. It talks of the cases as being physical and not psychiatric. Some of the psychiatric articles on it are really out in left field IMO.
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Christine, I was reading this morning about bug problems in the elderly and came up with something I feel very relevant -- delusional parasitosis. It is the feeling that little bugs (or dirt) have taken up residence on the skin and in other places. It is caused by other things, of course. The things are usually physical. The good thing is that once the cause is discovered, the symptoms are often treated with fair success. If you google "delusional parasitosis" you can find some information. I also included the word elderly in my search.
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My father was seeing spiders and swatting flies all the time, even was on his hands and knees trying to brush the spiders away. Finally traced it to one of his night meds that he took to sleep, an anti-psychotic Took him off that and no more spiders or flies!.
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Thank you all for your help and I will make an appointment to talk with her doctor. She does have an issue with anxiety. Her consistent housecleaning does appear to be obsessive and I have even mentioned this to her. Mentioning it to her just makes things worse. She is constantly trying to make everyone believe she has bugs in her house and they are biting her. Many of the family members will not call her anymore because they do not want to hear it again.
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Christine, how long has this been going on? I understand that she doesn't want to tell her doctor because of feeling ashamed. However, you can talk to her doctor to let him know. There are a few things the doctor may want to look at.

Older people, especially those with dementia, have trouble with bugs. Sometimes it is caused by a urinary tract infection. Older people sometimes get bladder infections because they have a harder time completely voiding their bladders. Certain medications, e.g. Aricept, have an uncommon side effect of making it hard to void the bladder completely. Even a small bladder infection can cause what looks like psychotic effects in the elderly. So her doctor may want to check for infection. Your mother has so much energy, however, I suspect UTI may not be the cause. Still, it is something to look at.

What your mother is experiencing seems to be going beyond the normal into the realm of obsessive-compulsive behavior. Sometimes people can experience a symptom, then look for a cause of the symptom. Often when someone is older, particularly if there is dementia, they become fixated on the symptom and its cause. This causes great anxiety. The attempts to alleviate the symptom by scratching and cleaning can just make things worse. Older skin is so fragile, thin, and affected by chemicals. It sounds like you may need some professional help to help her reduce the itching and anxiety that it is creating. Please talk to your mother's doctor about this. If he/she doesn't know, there is no way to help.

Tell your mother you will be responsible for throwing out the things that she feels are contaminated. Then when she feels better, you can bring the freshly decontaminated things back in. That should save a lot of money while she is getting better.

Hang in there, Christine. I know this is crazy making for you. And talk to her doctor in confidence. Many of us do that frequently. It is all part of taking care of our loved ones. Sometimes they hide things or are dishonest with their doctors, so we have to provide a truer picture so that they can help.
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My MIL starting itching about 4 years ago and self diagnosed everything from soap allergy to alien implantation and Morgellans. We ruled out everything we could by removing potted plants, going gluten free, changing soap and detergent, etc. The one thing she wouldn't consider changing....her Percocet! I say "oh well, then you aren't itching that badly" and stopped helping as did my husband. She is now in ICU for something else and went in with huge raw places the size of apples on her arms and legs from scratching and it turns out she has had a bacteria on her skin along with the germs under her fingernails the skin bacteria creates an awful cycle of events when she scratches at night. Her skin had become paper thin because of age and it just peeled away and became infected. She is completely healed now after only 3 weeks and doesn't itch at all. The skin problem is from her choice of lifestyle like not changing filters in house frequently, not bathing several times per week and not really washing and cleaning her hands/fingernails. The hospital did stop all gluten products and that will help when she gets home, she isn't allergic to it but gluten causes itching in some elderly folks. Good Luck, the thing to remember is that this is very real to her so if you never figure out the "why" maybe you can prevent any infection or injury from the scratching.
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Could she be having an allergic reaction to a medication, a detergent.or some environmental cause? look up this article with this search
Medical Conditions That Cause Itchy Skin

Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is more than just a nuisance. It can be a symptom of several medical conditions, some of them serious. When a persistent itch is not caused by bug bites, rough fabrics or allergic reactions to foods or medications, report it to your doctor. Physical examinations, laboratory tests and diagnostic tests can determine what is causing the itch, so it can be treated successfully.

Skin Conditions
Several skin conditions can cause the skin to itch. They include dermatitis, psoriasis, chickenpox, scabies, hives and lice. Itching may be accompanied by redness, bumps or scales, which can aid doctors in determining a definitive diagnosis. Light therapy, medications and wet dressings can relieve the itching associated with these skin conditions. Drugs to treat the underlying disorders can also be helpful in relieving itching and other symptoms.

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Kidney Failure
The kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes from the blood. When kidney damage or kidney failure are present, the kidneys lose their ability to filter the blood efficiently and the waste products build up. This buildup of waste products causes the skin to itch, particularly on the legs. Creams and lotions may be used to treat itching caused by kidney failure, but treating the kidney failure itself is the best way to relieve itching. Kidney dialysis, which is the use of a machine to filter the blood, may be needed if kidney failure is severe and other treatments do not work.

Celiac Disease
According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 15 to 25 percent of people who have celiac disease are affected by dermatitis herpetiformis. This is an itchy rash that occurs on the knees, buttocks and elbows. This condition is diagnosed with laboratory tests and a skin biopsy. Rash symptoms can be treated with antibiotics and the condition can be prevented by maintaining a diet that is free of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of iron in the body. This can be caused by poor diet, blood loss or an inability to absorb iron from foods. In addition to chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia can cause persistent itching. Acute episodes of itching can be treated with topical medications. To stop the itching from recurring, the anemia must be treated. Someone with anemia may have to take iron supplements or eat more foods that are rich in iron.

Cancers
Leukemia and lymphoma are types of cancers that can cause itchy skin. Leukemia is a cancer that affects the bone marrow or blood and interrupts the normal production of blood cells. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infections. These cells circulate through the lymphatic system to destroy abnormal cells. Itchy skin caused by these cancers can be relieved with creams or lotions. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery can be used to treat the cancer and relieve symptoms for a longer period of time.

Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland is responsible for converting iodine into thyroid hormones known as thyroxine and triiodothyronine. When the thyroid gland is underactive, it does not produce enough of these hormones, which can result in several bothersome symptoms. One of these symptoms is a persistent itch. Hypothyroidism can be treated with oral medications such as Levothyroxine. Once hypothyroidism is controlled, the itch stops or is greatly reduced.
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