Scabies infection is caused by the Sarcoptesscabiei, the human itch mite which thrives in the human skin. Female scabies mite burrows under the first layer of skin to lay eggs and then reproduce to increase the infestation which causes irritating rashes. The rashes are a result of the immune system’s response to the mite, their eggs and the fecal matter they leave behind. The mite cannot survive off the human body for more than 72 hours which makes it highly likely that the mite can find a new host, thus scabies is referred to as communicable disease.
Symptoms of scabies
The rashes can be itchy, especially during night when the mite is the most active and moves under the skin.The scabies infection is signified by red pimple like rashes having thin burrow lines originating from them. Once you catch the scabies infection. The first signs of the infestation appear between two to six weeks of the initial exposure.
Rashes of the scabies infection are visible on the wrists, between the fingers, elbows, armpits, under breast area, buttocks, nipple and genitals. In case of babies and elderly people, the rashes are also visible on the head, face, neck, soles of the feet and hands.
People having compromised immune system can have the more contagious and severe form of the infection known as Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies. In this condition, the patient develops thick crusts of skin infested by thousands of mites and eggs.
Diagnosis of the infection
Once the initial symptoms of scabies infection are recognized, it is advised to get a physical examination of the affected area done by a doctor. The diagnosis involves removing the itch mite with a needle, scraping off a small section of the skin to identify fecal matter and the eggs.
Scabies can be treated by getting rid of the mite and its eggs with the use of prescription ointments, creams/lotions and oral medication. The creams and ointments should be preferably applied at night when the mite moves in the skin. Applying the medicine properly to all the affected areas is important and the clothes and bedding of the patient should be washed in hot water to kill the mites and prevent the infection from spreading.
The commonly used topical medicines to treat scabies are –
- 5 percent permethrin cream
- 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion
- 10 percent sulfur ointment
- 10 percent crotamiton cream
- 1 percent lindane lotion
Along with these, the doctor can also prescribe antibiotics to cure the infection resulting from scratching the affected parts, antihistamines like Benadryl or pramoxine lotion to control the relentless itch and steroid creams for relief from the swelling.
Oral medicines like Ivermectin are given to patients who don’t respond to any of the topical treatments. This is mostly the case with people having weak immune system.
Post scabies syndrome
Once the mites are killed with medication,you’ll notice that there are no burrow lines under the skin yet the signs of scabies infection may persist as the fecal matter and dead eggs might still be present in the skin.
As immune system’s response to these irritants, the rashes can persist until they are absorbed by the skin and expelled. This is called post-scabies syndrome as the patient experiences scabies symptoms even after the treatment is successful.
Home remedies like taking a bath in water infused with neem oil, tea tree oil, clove oil, aloe vera, turmeric or zinc helps in suppressing the post scabies syndrome which removes the rashes on the skin.