What is scabies?

Scabies is a contagious, itchy skin disease caused by an infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei, a microscopic mite that burrows under the skin. Scabies is characterized by intense itching caused by a skin reaction to the mites. Itching most often occurs at night and may be accompanied by pimple-like irritations or rashes, and sores caused by scratching.

Scabies is a common disease that can affect any gender, race, age group, or social background. More than 300 million scabies cases occur globally every year, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (Source: AOCD).

Scabies spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Transmission commonly occurs between family members and sexual partners. Scabies is a major problem in crowded areas, particularly in hospitals, child care centers, prisons, and nursing homes. In some cases, scabies is transmitted by sharing unwashed clothes, towels and bedding. Your pets are not able to spread human scabies, but they can be affected by a different mite infection called mange.

It’s important to know that even people with good personal hygiene can catch scabies. Fortunately, effective medications called scabicides can treat scabies, while washing and drying clothes at hot temperatures can eradicate infestations in clothing and bedding.

Crusted (or Norwegian) scabies is a more serious and extremely infectious form of the disease. Crusted scabies affects large areas of the body, such as the hands and feet, causing scaly and crusted skin. Thousands of mites infest areas of skin under the crusts, which makes it difficult to kill the live mites and their eggs. Crusted scabies is mostly found among older people or people who are immunocompromised, such as organ transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS patients.

In some cases, scabies and crusted scabies can lead to serious complications, such as secondary infections and poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, which is inflammation of the kidneys. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of scabies, such as intense itching and a skin rash. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize the spread of the disease and reduce the risk of complications.


What are the symptoms of scabies?

If a person has never had scabies, symptoms may not appear until four to six weeks after exposure to the mites that cause scabies. However, a person who has had scabies in the past may develop symptoms one to four days after exposure. An infected person can spread scabies even if symptoms have not yet appeared.

The main symptom of scabies is intense itching and scratching. Other s... Read more about scabiessymptoms


What causes scabies?

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by the bite of female mites known as “human itch mites,” or Sarcoptes scabiei. These eight-legged mites are attracted to warmth and odor and survive by burrowing into the upper layers of human skin, where they lay their eggs. After a few weeks, these bites result in an allergic reaction causing intense itching and scratching, especially at night.... Read more about scabiescauses


How is scabies treated?

Scabies can be treated with prescription creams and lotions, known as scabicides, which kill the mites. Some medications also kill the eggs. Residual itching and inflammation after treatment with scabicides can be treated with antihistamines and corticosteroid creams. Complete treatment of the infestation also requires a comprehensive process to eradicate infestations in linens and clothing. Read more about scabiestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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