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Feeling of Something Crawling on Head Symptoms

Formication is the medical term for a sensation of something (usually small insects) crawling on or under the skin. Often formication is associated with no obvious physical cause or external trigger. It is a fairly common occurrence — many people can remember a time where they swatted or scratched at such a sensation only to find no bug, insect or bite in sight.

Characteristics

If periodic or occasional, formication can be a natural sensory occurrence that quickly resolves without much effort or thought; however, when such sensations become chronic or incessant, medical attention may be required. Individuals who experience chronic symptoms of formication may go on to develop symptoms such as:

The excessive scratching that often accompanies formication is also an important symptom. Though scratching can be helpful in relieving a crawling sensation, it only offers temporary relief. Scratching can result in breaks in the skin that can lead to bleeding or infection, further exacerbating the issue.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek medical attention. Formication and its associated symptoms often require the help of a multidimensional medical team including psychiatrists, dermatologists, and general medicine doctors.

Feeling of Something Crawling on Head Causes Overview

Formication is a type of paresthesia. Paresthesias are defined as dermal sensations with no apparent physical cause [6]. Paresthesias include sensations such as prickling, tingling, or numbness — sensations many define as "pins and needles."

These sensations are usually caused by transient disruption or pressure on the nerves in the affected area; for example, sitting with the legs crossed for too long can easily produce such sensations. However, when symptoms become chronic in nature, the causes become more nuanced.

Psychiatric

Since formication does not have an obvious physical cause, many people who suffer from chronic formication often have a psychiatric etiology contributing to their symptoms. A psychiatric disorder is that relating to mental illness.

  • Delusion Some people may suffer from delusional infestations in which they have the fixed, false belief (delusion) that they are infected by parasites, worms, mites, bacteria, fibers or other living organisms despite no evidence of an infection or infestation [2].
  • Hallucination Some people may suffer from the hallucination (experience of something not there) of bugs or insects crawling on or under the skin. Such individuals may see the bugs on their skin when there is nothing actually there.
  • Toxic Substance abuse can often cause sensations of crawling on the head and under the skin. Chronic alcohol use and withdrawal and long-term cocaine and amphetamine abuse are common precipitants of these symptoms — the term "cocaine bugs" are heavily described in the literature.

Environmental

Though it is easy to think that the feeling of something crawling in the hair or on the body is "all in your head," there are concrete causes from the environment that may be causing your symptoms as well.

  • Parasitic Small, parasitic insects such as lice that feed on their host's blood and propagate by personal contact are a very common cause of such symptoms. They can inhabit the head, body and even pubic area and cause sensations of tickling or movement in addition to intense itching.
  • Medication Certain prescription drugs, corticosteroids, and some antibiotics, for example, may induce formication and its associated symptoms.

Medical

Chronic paresthesia, in general, is usually a symptom of an underlying condition or problem affecting the nerves. Although paresthesia specifically involving the sensation of crawling on the head or under the skin is more commonly associated with psychological causes, it is also important to consider medical causes of symptoms as well.

  • Neurologic Paresthesia can be caused by disorders affecting the central nervous system, such as strokes and multiple sclerosis (MS). Neurologic conditions that put pressure on the nerves, such as a tumor, can also cause paresthesia. Nerve entrapment syndromes, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome, can damage peripheral nerves and cause paresthesia that is also associated with pain.
  • Metabolic There are many systemic, metabolic conditions that can result in damage to the nerves of the body. These conditions affect the way that the nerve sends and receives signals from the brain and spinal cord and disrupts proper sensory function. Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and vitamin deficiencies often result in paresthesias, though they are less associated with crawling sensations specifically.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Feeling of Something Crawling on Head

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced feeling of something crawling on head. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Head Lice

    Lice are tiny insects without wings that are usually found in hair, back of the neck, and behind the ears. Lice are highly contagious and prevalent in preschool & elementary school-age children.

    With proper treatment, most cases are resolved within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    scalp itchiness, feeling of something crawling on head
    Symptoms that always occur with head lice:
    scalp itchiness
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

    Feeling of Something Crawling on Head Checker

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  2. 2.Seborrheic Dermatitis

    Seborrheic dermatitis is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp, face or inside the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin. The exact cause of this condition is not known, although doctors think that some common skin yeast organisms, called Malassezia, may play a role in some people.

    Weeks to months with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, rash with well-defined border, scalp skin changes, cheek skin changes
    Symptoms that never occur with seborrheic dermatitis:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  3. 3.Ringworm of the Scalp (Tinea Capitis)

    Tinea Capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp. It often causes itching, dandruff, and sometimes bald spots. It can be transmitted from one person to another.

    Treatment will last from 4-12 weeks, but the symptoms should resolve a few weeks into treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    scalp itchiness, patchy hair loss, scalp redness, scaling of the scalp, rash
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Feeling of Something Crawling on Head Treatments and Relief

Treatment for formication and its associated symptoms requires a thorough assessment of the person's situation including a thorough history, drug screen, and physical examination.

The key in treating feelings of something crawling on the head or under the skin is to find the root cause whether that be psychiatric, medical or environmental etiologies. The root cause of the symptoms will dictate the appropriate treatment.

  • Psychiatric Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, and antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs are the principal modalities used in treating psychiatric causes of formication. In addition, drug rehab programs to help people stop abusing alcohol and cocaine may also be utilized as treatment.
  • Environmental Proper treatment of a parasitic infestation such as lice or scabies includes over-the-counter and prescription medications that specifically target parasites and kill them. It is also important to take preventative steps at home such as washing combs and brushes, not sharing personal belongings such as hats or scarves, and washing and decontaminated any used linens or bedding.
  • Medical Since the medical causes of formication can be varied, your doctor will run the appropriate diagnostic tests in order to uncover the root cause of your symptoms and begin appropriate treatment.

FAQs About Feeling of Something Crawling on Head

Here are some frequently asked questions about feeling of something crawling on head.

What kinds of prescription drugs can cause formication?

Often it is not the drug itself that causes symptoms but rather withdrawal from the prescribed drug that results in feelings of crawling on the head or under the skin. Withdrawal from

opioid pain medications (codeine, morphine), antidepressants (SSRIs), cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine can lead to this symptom. Discuss with your doctor your prescribed drug and proper withdrawal.

Can formication be treated?

Yes, formication can be treated. Treatment will depend on the specific cause of your symptoms whether they are psychiatric or medical in nature. Your diagnostic team will include a multifaceted team of physicians including dermatologists, psychiatrists, and medical doctors.

Is formication life threatening?

The actual sensation of crawling on the head or under the skin is not dangerous in itself; however, these symptoms can have serious complications. For example, some people may scratch incessantly at the sensation, causing lesions or breaks in the skin that may lead to infection.

Am I crazy for feeling like something is crawling on my head?

You should not feel crazy or embarrassed about experiencing such symptoms. Even if your symptoms are psychiatric in nature, your experience of this sensation is affecting the quality of your life and you deserve to be taken seriously. Even if you are feeling negative about yourself during this time, it is important to seek medical attention that validates your symptoms and concerns and works to help you achieve relief.

Will the crawling on my head spread to other parts of my body?

If your symptoms are caused by parasites, they may spread to infect not only your head but also other parts of your body. However, if your symptoms are the result of other causes, it is not clear-cut as to whether the sensations will spread to include other body parts. Either way, it is important to seek medical attention for your symptoms in order to get the most appropriate treatment.

Is the sensation contagious?

Crawling on the head or under the skin is only contagious in situations of parasite infestation. Lice are extremely contagious and easily transferred via body-to-body contact, body-to-infested material contact, etc. It is very important to get a lice diagnosis promptly in order to prevent spread.

Feeling of Something Crawling on Head Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced feeling of something crawling on head have also experienced:

    • 7% Feeling Itchy or Tingling All Over
    • 6% Headache
    • 5% Scalp Itchiness
  • People who have experienced feeling of something crawling on head were most often matched with:

    • 50% Ringworm of the Scalp (Tinea Capitis)
    • 25% Head Lice
    • 25% Seborrheic Dermatitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Hylwa SA, Bury JE, David MDP, et al. Delusional Infestation, Including Delusions of Parasitosis. JAMA Network. Published September 2011. JAMA Network Link
  2. Suh KN, Keystone JS. Delusional Infestation: Epidemiology, Clinical Presentation, Assessment and Diagnosis. UpToDate. Updated June 7, 2018. UpToDate Link
  3. Litt J. Formication. Psychology Today. Published November 3, 2009. Psychology Today Link
  4. Mayo Clinic. Published May 19, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
  5. Morgellons Disease: Managing an Unexplained Skin Condition. Mayo Clinic. Published April 10, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
  6. Paresthesia Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated June 14, 2018. NINDS Link
  7. Crawford J. What is Formication? Medical News Today. Updated May 23, 2018. Medical News Today Link