Scabies Infestation: Diagnosis and Complications

Being a global public health problem, scabies is an itchy rash which is said to be caused due to infestation with parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It said to be existing in humans for over 2,500 years, having its existence back in the Roman period. Hence, if you are not much known to the disease, you must learn about the diagnosis and complications.

With an estimated 300 million cases prevalent all over the globe, scabies is a common public health problem. Outbreaks are common in areas like hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, schools, and those overcrowded situations just like the refugee camps. These areas are particularly at risk and the disease has strong prevalence areas associated with overpopulation and poverty.

A person is said to have scabies after he get infested with these eight- legged mites, called Sarcoptes scabiei. Using their mouths and front legs, they burrow into the outer layer of your skin. They feed on their host and also reproduce, making the infection severer. Basically, it begins in the locations like skin folds, under fingernails, around the buttock, between the fingers, etc. However, they can appear anywhere across your body.

Let’s explore a little more about the different diagnosis methods and complications related to scabies:

How to diagnose scabies?

In most of the cases, physicians diagnose scabies from the appearance of your skin. They look for the burrow marks, stating the sign of presence of Sarcoptes scabiei mite under the skin. However, there are many other skin conditions like eczema or impetigo which might cause similar symptoms. Going for proper diagnosis is advisable:

Ink test:

Basically, this test is performed to identify the burrows of scabies mites. In this test, the ink is rubbed around an area of itchy skin. But before that the particular area is wiped off with an alcohol pad. After the ink is applied, if scabies burrows are there, some of the ink will remain there. And this will then have tracked into the burrows, showing up as the dark lines.

Hence, to confirm the presence of scabies, the doctor will gently scrape your skin from the affected area. It will be then examined under a microscope for the evidence of scabies mites, their eggs and faeces.

As scabies is a highly contagious disease, therefore it is often recommend conducting a confident diagnosis for all the family members, even if they are not having any symptoms.

What are the complications of scabies?

Generally, there are two possible complications of scabies, i.e. secondary infection and crusted scabies.

Secondary infection:

Also known as seven-year itch, scabies causes intense itching and repeated scratching to the itchy skin break the skin’s surface. And it is this skin which becomes more vulnerable to developing a bacterial skin infection. Yes, a person can suffer from impetigo.

Along this, if you are already suffering through some pre-existing skin conditions, for example, eczema, then presence of scabies mites can make it worse.

Crusted scabies:

Better known as Norwegian scabies, it is another form of scabies. The presence of thousands or even millions of scabies mites turns it to crusted scabies. This condition can affect all parts of the body, including your hands, legs, head, neck, nails and scalp. This increase in the number of mites forms a thick and warty crust on the skin. However, as far as the rashes are associated, in case of crusted scabies they usually don’t itch.

Crusted scabies generally affects the people with a weak immune system, i.e. in small children, people with brain disorders, Down’s syndrome, conditions that affects their immune system (HIV), pregnant women, elderly people, or people going through chemotherapy treatment.

Thus, if you are suspecting scabies, it is highly important to visit your doctor. Get diagnosed and start the treatment as soon as possible!

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