Scabies (also known as the seven-year-itch) is a contagious itchy condition caused by the itch mite Sarcoptes Scabiei which buries in the topmost layer of skin. The infection is caused by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, his/her bedding, towels, furniture or other objects. Once the female itch mite lands on the skin of the new host, it burrows into the outermost skin layer (stratum corneum) and lays eggs for hatching. Due to the ideal temperature conditions of the skin for scabies mite to survive, the infection can be spread considerably if not attended to.
What does it look like?
Scabies infestation looks like a red pimple-like dot which is elevated from the surface by 1mm. These bumps may be crusty on the surface and near each bump you can see fine burrow lines which signify the movement of the itch mite. These burrows can be gray, brown or red in color and most of the times they look like scratches on the skin.
The scabies mite is 0.5 mm in size and looks like a pinpoint needle when looked at closely. However, it is not visible to most people even during close examination. The itch mite can only be viewed under the microscope.
Symptoms of scabies
If you have a scabies infection for the first time in your life, you’ll not notice any symptoms for two to six weeks. On the other hand if you have had the infection in the past too, the symptoms will show within 24 hours. These symptoms are caused by the allergic reaction to the mites.
If you notice intense itching during the night time it is most likely scabies mite moving inside the burrows or digging new burrows to lays eggs. The mite is most active during the night time, therefore you’ll feel discomfort during this time.
Diagnosis of scabies infection
Scabies can be diagnosed by the physician through a close examination of the skin and performing certain tests. The diagnosis is done using all or some of the methods listed below:
- Scrapping the skin for identification of mites, eggs or fecal matter
- Using handheld dermoscope for the visual examination of the skin
- Using adhesive tape to extract the mites and fecal matter by applying it to the lesion and then removing it
Treating scabies infestation
Scabies can be treated by applying over-the-counter medicated creams or oral medicines which kill the mites and their eggs. Some common medications used for the treatment of scabies infection include:
Permethrin cream – A topical cream which is safe for adults, pregnant women and children aged 2 months or older
Lindane lotion –A chemical treatment for an infection that is itchy. Recommended for adults, children over the age of 10 years, pregnant or nursing women and people weighing less than 110 pounds
Crotamiton–To be applied once or twice a day depending on the severity of the infection. Not suitable for patients other than adults.
Ivermectin–Oral medication for patients who have altered the immune system, ones having crusted scabies or people who don’t respond to above-mentioned creams/lotions. Not recommended for children, pregnant/nursing women.
Home remedies for scabies
Scabies can be treated by applying some common household items like:
Tea tree oil–Known for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties
Aloe Vera–Soothes the itchy skin and helps rejuvenate the skin cells
Neem - Has antiseptic properties which kill scabies mite
Cayenne pepper –Alleviates pain and itching in scabies patients
Other than all these remedies one needs to maintain proper hygiene and wash clothes, towels and bedding regularly with hot water to kill the scabies mite which can survive for some time on these things other than host body.