What are scabies?

Scabies is a skin infestation that presents itself as a skin breakout with intense itching that becomes worse at night. It is a disease also known as the “seven years itch!” Scabies is a frequent cause of visits to the dermatology offices. 300 million people are affected worldwide, including the USA and Europe.

What is the cause of scabies?

Scabies is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The scabies mite has eight legs, is whitish-brown in color, and is nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Is scabies contagious?

Yes, it can be spread from one person to another through close skin-to-skin contact.

How do scabies mites infect the skin?

The symptoms of scabies are caused by the female mites, which tunnel into the skin after being fertilized. The female lays eggs under the skin and continues to tunnel until she dies, usually after a month or two. When the eggs hatch, new mites travel back to the surface of the skin, then mate and repeat the cycle of tunneling and laying more eggs. A person who is infected with scabies typically has around 12 mites at any given time.

How is scabies spread?

Usually via skin-to-skin contact. It is common for infected parents to pass scabies to their child (particularly an infant) or vice versa, as a result of close contact. However, it is unusual for school children to pass scabies to each other.

What is the time period between infection and symptoms?

It takes about three to four weeks for signs or symptoms of a first scabies infection to develop. People who have been infected with scabies previously may develop symptoms within a few days after another exposure.

Is scabies considered as an STD?

Scabies is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, however, the most common mode of transmission between young adults is sexual contact.

How can I clean my bedding and clothes from scabies?

The mites that cause scabies only survive for 24 to 36 hours once they are no longer in contact with the skin. Because scabies survive longer in cold weather, infection is more common in the winter than it is in the summer. Therefore, washing your bedding and clothes with warm/hot water and leaving it unused for 2-3 days must be sufficient for the disinfection of the household. It is uncommon, but possible, to contract scabies by use of heavily contaminated bedding or clothing.

How does the skin rash look?

Scabies causes visible bumps or blisters on the skin detected on typical locations on the body. Since the bumps are typically very small, it can be difficult to see with the naked eye.These bumps or blisters are often more noticeable in children, especially if they scratch the affected area frequently.

Scabies crawls under the skin!

The affected skin may show a 2 to 15 mm long, thin visible line called a “burrow” or tunnel sign on the skin. This is the result of scabies creating a tunnel under the skin. The presence of such a mark strongly suggests scabies.

Part of body affected with scabies

  • The fingers and space between the fingers
  • The skin folds around the wrists, elbows, and knees
  • The armpits
  • The area surrounding the nipples (particularly in women)
  • The waist
  • The male genitalia (penis and scrotum)
  • The lower buttocks and upper thighs
  • The sides and bottoms of the feet

The head and back are usually not affected, however, this may appear sometimes in infants and very young children.

Why is scabies treated with antibiotics?

Antibiotics do not affect scabies. However, the scratching of skin lesions caused by scabies can disrupt skin barriers and allow bacteria to invade the tissue. As a result, the bacteria causes a secondary skin infection, which can be treated by antibiotics.

Can scabies affect my pets?

Yes; this infection would be called a mange. Animals can also become infected by scabies though different types of mites. This mite can tunnel under the skin and cause itching in humans, but it does not reproduce and does not require treatment because symptoms resolve when the mite dies (usually within a few days). We advise you to see a veterinarian if you feel your pet is infected.

What are crusted Scabies?

Crusted scabies, also called “Norwegian scabies”, is a heavily involved scabies of the skin with a large number of mites. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients during treatment, lymphoma or AIDS patients, as well as older adults and those with down syndrome, are at risk of developing crusted scabies in which scabies causes large, crusty red patches or bumps on the skin.

Crusted scabies often affects the scalp, hands, and feet, and will easily spread if left untreated. There may be little to no itching.

How is scabies diagnosed?

Usually, Dr. Shafa is able to diagnose scabies clinically with the naked eye or with a skin evaluation via a Dermoscope. Several hints that indicate possible infestation with scabies are: widespread intense itching, having other family members with the same symptoms, certain skin findings, such as the presence of skin bumps, the location, and the pattern of the skin eruption. If diagnosis is uncertain, scraping the top layers of skin at the site of a lesion and examining it under a microscope for mites or eggs can support the diagnosis. Rarely, a skin biopsy is needed to differentiate scabies from similar skin lesions.

Is scabies easily treatable?

Yes, fortunately, effective treatments for scabies are available. When you see us for itching or rashes, Dr. Shafa will diagnose the cause of your rash and itching. If diagnosis of scabies is confirmed or highly suspicious, then treatment of scabies will be started.

What type of treatment will be offered?

Getting rid of mites with Rx medication – The treatment of scabies is short, effective and easy. Treatment consists of the application of a prescription cream only once or twice. For stubborn cases or crusted scabies, oral medication may be prescribed. It is important to use the cream as instructed in the office.

Treat family members – Dr. Shafa will let you know if the treatment of family members is necessary, depending upon the individual situation.

Get rid of mites in your house – During your visit, we will give you detailed instructions about how to clean your house, including your clothes and bedding from mites.

Relieving itching — You will be instructed and advised how and what to take to control itching until scabies treatment kicks in and itching resolves permanently after scabies mites are eradicated from skin.

Prevent reinfection – You will be advised and educated on how to avoid reinfection with mites.

Treating infection — You may be treated with Rx antibiotics if a skin infection on the top of the mite infection is found. This is called a superimposed bacterial infection.

Return to work/school – School kids can usually return to school after one treatment for scabies. Classmates and teachers do not usually need to be treated unless there are signs or symptoms of scabies infection.

Contact Us!

If you have a persistent rash and itching of the skin, Call us to make an appointment for a medical visit. You will be evaluated by obtaining your history, examining your skin, making a diagnosis, and informing you about treatment options and frequency.*

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