Caused by a small itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis, Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition that can affect people of all ages, ethnicities, both sexes, and socioeconomic levels. It is not caused due to lack of personal hygiene but spreads from the infected person to a non-infested individual by direct, prolonged skin-to-skin contact. The chances of spreading scabies are more in crowded, urban conditions like nursing homes, hospitals, day care centers and prisons.
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Scabies can easily spread not just to the sexual partners but other family members as well. Therefore, it is recommended to treat all family members at once, even if the symptoms are not visible on their skin. Although the scabies mite cannot survive without the host body after 72 hours, there are chances of spreading the mites by shared towels, clothing, or bedding.
Following are the common locations where you can find the lesions of scabies:
- Finger webs
- Inner wrists, inner elbows, and armpits
- Breasts of females and genitalia of males
- Navel (umbilicus)
- Back of knees
- Lower abdomen
Adults don’t experience lesions on the face, scalp, and neck. But these areas are most affected in case of children less than two years of age.
Signs and Symptoms
Extreme itching is the most common symptom of scabies. Scabies rash appears in form of pink-to-red bumps that appear like pimples or mosquito bites. These lesions occur as the female mites start to burrow under the skin for laying eggs. These burrows are not visible through naked eye, and can be seen only under a microscope. You can see a small, thread-like, scaly line (3–10 mm long) in the skin where these burrows are made by the mites.
As a result of an allergic response to these mites, people experience itching and skin rashes for up to 6 weeks after becoming infested. People who have had scabies before may develop rashes just within a few days of re-exposure.
Itching during scabies becomes unbearable during the night - as the mites are active at this time. Excessive scratching may break the skin, making it more vulnerable to bacterial infection. If not controlled on time, a severe form of scabies, called Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies, may occur. This severe scabies condition usually occurs in elderly people, individuals with weakened immune systems (such as organ transplant recipients or people with HIV/AIDS), malnourished people, or disabled or mentally impaired individuals.
When to Seek Medical Care
You must seek medical attention as soon as you feel extreme itching or see rashes on your body. Even your family members need to be diagnosed and treated for scabies infection at the same time so that later there are no chances of re-infection.
After examining your skin for typical lesions, your physician may prescribe you the following treatment to get rid of scabies:
- Permethrin 5% cream (Elimite) is the first choice of any doctor for scabies treatment. This is because this treatment is very effective and safe to use. It is safe to use even in children and pregnant women. You need to apply the cream all over your body and leave it overnight. Rinse the cream the next morning. Adults should apply the cream to the entire body except on the face and scalp.
- Dr. Scabies - If you don’t want to use the chemical-induced drug on your skin, you may apply Dr. Scabies cream. The cream is made from natural ingredients and is proven effective in the treatment of scabies. You must follow the instructions given in the accompanying handbook before applying this cream.