What is scabies? Scabies is an extremely itchy skin ailment that can pass from person to person. It is quite common in the UK, with 1 in 1,000 people encountering the problem each month. It is a common issue in urban areas and affects women and children in particular. Scabies is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms mimic many other skin diseases, which is enough to confuse a physician. It can be cured, but patients have to follow directions for environmental cleanup and medical treatment.
What Is Scabies?
An individual gets scabies mainly due to a tiny insect called a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei), which is a parasite and lives off the host. This parasitic arthropod is cream color with bristles and eight legs. The female mite is usually bigger in size. At 0.4mm in length, it is not easy to see with the naked eye. The mites may be small, but even 10 adult females mites in your skin can lead to body-wide torment. It becomes even difficult when they defecate and lay eggs that soon transform into larvae, and ultimately develop into adult mites. The itching is usually due to an allergic reaction to the excrement of the mites and their burrows; however, an antihistamine or anti-allergy medication is not enough to squelch the desire to scratch.
How Does Scabies Spread?
Scabies usually spreads through direct, skin-to-skin contact, like that between members of a household or between sexual partners. The experts believe that a prolonged skin-to-skin contact is necessary for scabies to transfer from one person to another, so a quick hug or handshake wouldn't spread infestation. Moreover, a person can acquire the mites from putting on clothes used by a person with scabies or sleeping in contaminated bedding. Outbreaks of scabies are generally more common in nursing facilities, nursing homes, childcare centers and college dorms.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Scabies?
Severe itching is the major symptom of scabies. It usually starts slowly, affecting only one area of your body and then spreads quickly. The desire to scratch gets stronger at night and right after a hot bath. Besides itching, there are some other signs and symptoms of scabies, such as the following:
- Mite burrows. Fine, dark lines up to 10mm long may be a sign of mite burrows. Look for these burrows in the loose skin between the inner surface of your wrists and your fingers.
- Rash. After the itching, you will notice rash appear on your skin. You will find blotchy, lumpy red rashes on your tummy and on the inside of the thighs. The rash can also appear on armpits, buttocks and around the nipples in females.
- Scratching. Severe itching usually leads to scratches on your skin. This may cause some skin damage, which sometimes aggravates due to infection. If you feel your skin becoming red, inflamed and tender, this may be due to a bacterial infection.
In addition to these, you may see your pre-existing skin conditions getting worse if you have scabies. Therefore, it is a little difficult to diagnose scabies when you already have other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Moreover, you can find scabies in almost any part of your body, but they usually have some favored sites or areas. Here are some of the common sites of infestation in adults and children:
Scabies Are Common Found in the Following Parts
Inside your elbow
Around your wrist
On and around buttocks
Around shoulder blades
Around nipples in women
Around genital area in men
On the sole of your foot
On the sole of the foot
On the hands and palms
When to See a Doctor
If the temptation to scratch is too strong, this may be due to scabies. It is better to consult your doctor, so they could check other signs and symptoms to find the root cause of constant itching that has made living difficult for you. It is worth mentioning that many other skin diseases, such as eczema or dermatitis which have similar symptoms, so it is critical to visit your doctor to determine the main cause of trouble. Remember, over-the-counter preparations and bathing may offer some relief, but nothing of these methods will eliminate scabies.
How Can Scabies Be Treated?
Different treatment options are available and they all try to eliminate the infestation. You can try lotions and creams that you have to apply all over your body to get rid of scabies.
The usual treatment is to use a 5% permethrin cream from the neck right to the bottom of your feet. It is important that you apply the cream everywhere, including the palms, groin and soles of your feet. Leave it there for at least 8 hours. Permethrin is usually a safer choice for kids and women with weakened immune systems.
In addition to permethrin, you can also use Lindane, which is easily available as a lotion, cream and shampoo. Unlike Permethrin, it is not safe for children under 2 years of age. Women should also avoid it during pregnancy.
Crotamiton is another treatment option, suitable for those who don't want a chemical treatment for any reason at all. You have to apply this nonchemical medication at least once a day for five days to get rid of scabies.
Remember, all these treatment options will kill the mites and their eggs, but the itching won't go away immediately.
You can also try these home remedies to treat scabies in the video below: