Scabies

Scabies is a skin condition caused by a tiny mite which causes intense itching especially at night. The itching is the result of the body's response to these mites, their eggs and their waste. Close physical contact and sharing clothing or bedding with an infected person result in the spread of the disease

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Scabies is caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabei).

The female mite burrows just beneath the skin and produces a tunnel in which it deposits eggs which mature in 21 days. The burrows or tracks typically appear in folds of the skin and are found in:

  • Between fingers, the insides of wrists and on the inner elbow
  • On the soles of the feet
  • Around breasts, armpits and around the male genital area
  • On buttocks, knees and shoulder blades

In children, common sites of infestation include the:

  • Scalp, face and neck
  • Palms of the hands and soles of the feet

Symptoms

  • Itching often severe and usually worse at night
  • Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on the skin

Diagnosis

Scabies is diagnosed by:

  • Physical examination
  • Scrapings from the burrows to determine the presence of mites or their eggs

Complications

  • Impetigo is a superficial secondary skin infection caused by Staphyloccus or Streptococci.
  • Severe form of scabies called crusted scabies usually occurs in the elderly and in patients with HIV and chronic leukemia.

Treatment

Scabies treatment involves eliminating the infestation with medications. Two medications commonly prescribed are:

  • Permethrin
  • Crotamiton

Because scabies spreads so easily, treatment is recommended for all family members and other close contacts even if they show no signs of scabies infestation.

Itching may persist for some time after applying the medication to kill the mites. These steps may help you find relief from itching:

  • Cool and soak the skin by applying a cool, wet washcloth to irritated areas of the skin.
  • Apply soothing lotion like calamine lotion.
  • If the itching is severe, the doctor may advise taking antihistamines to relieve the itching and skin irritation.
Learn more about scabies medications here.

Prevention

The following steps should be taken to prevent re-infestation and to prevent the mites from spreading to other people.

  • Clean all clothes and linen
    Use hot, soapy water to wash all clothing, towels and bedding used at least two days prior to treatment. Dry with high heat. Dry-clean items you can not wash at home.

  • Starve the mites
    Consider placing items you can not wash in a sealed plastic bag for a couple of weeks. Mites die if they do not eat for a week.

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