That Creeping, Crawling Sensation Under Your Skin

Has psoriasis ever given you the sensation of having bugs crawling under your skin? It’s not a commonly discussed symptom, but many of us with psoriasis at one time or another have experienced it. It’s called “formication.”

The strange crawling psoriasis symptom

Having psoriasis means that I experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms. The itching (pruritus) is the biggest one for most of us. I also experience pain in my psoriasis plaques, or the feeling of burning during a flare.

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There’s the sensation of stretching, where it’s almost like your skin is too tight. But the most common feeling I have on my skin is the feeling that tiny ants are crawling all over it. It’s not limited to my plaques; I get it all over my unaffected skin as well.

What is psoriasis formication?

Formication is the medical term for the sensation of tiny bugs or ants crawling under your skin. The word is even derived from the Latin “formica,” which literally means “ant!” It’s been described as similar to having pins and needles, or a tingling itch. Formication is a type of tactile hallucination, which means your brain is formulating false sensations to an external stimulus that doesn’t exist (read: bugs that aren’t there!).

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An internet search of “formication” will swamp you with expert testimony regarding “delusional parasitosis,” where people do become convinced that there are bugs under their skin. Rest assured that there aren’t actually creepy crawlies, and in the case of psoriasis it’s likely just a by-product of nerve irritation (albeit we don’t currently know the underlying cause).

Aside from psoriasis, where else can formication occur?

People with Lyme disease, those taking opioids, or those with diabetic neuropathy commonly report this sensation, and it was reported in eczema patients as early as 1890. It can also be a side effect of medications like Enbrel, or drugs like cocaine and alcohol. Aside from psoriasis, formication is a commonly reported symptom in other disorders like Fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s Disease.

How do you treat the crawling formication?

Although rare, formication can sometimes be attributed to specific underlying causes, like cancer. As mentioned above, it can also be a side effect of certain medications, so switching those up may help. For me, formication is just something that I’ve learned to live with. It does seem to get worse after eating certain foods, so I avoid things like gluten, beans, and eggs/dairy. I also use meditation to cope with it and all the other unpleasant psoriasis symptoms.
Even though it’s difficult, try to avoid scratching or rubbing your skin, as this can create other problems. Anecdotally, some people do find that taking an anti-histamine helps, but if it is severely impacting your life, a trip to the Doctor is always a good plan.

What about you? Do you have any weird skin sensations? Share your story with the community.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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