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What Is Scabies?

Bangalore Baptist Hospital

Bangalore Baptist Hospital

  Hebbal, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   3 min     


Scabies is a parasitic infestation of the skin with mites, which are microscopic organisms called Sarcoptes scabiei. These small insects burrow under the skin and cause intense itching, especially at night. Most of the symptoms of scabies infestation are due to the immune system response to the mites themselves, their saliva, their eggs or their faeces.

Crusted Scabies (Norwegian Scabies):

It is a more severe form of scabies with a hyperinfestation of scabies mites. This means that there are thousands or millions of the mites, causing excessive flaking of the skin. Because there are so many mites, and because the skin is flaking off, it is highly contagious. Crusted scabies mainly occurs in people who are immunocompromised (have a poor immune system).

How Do You Get Scabies?

A close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person leads to scabies. The mites live in skin and can survive away from the host human for about 24-36 hours. Thus, scabies spreads from close, prolonged or intimate contact with an infected person, their clothing or bedding. Dogs can get a type of scabies which causes Mange, and although humans may pick up some of these bugs, they cannot reproduce on people and therefore do not cause severe symptoms for people. Treating the animal will decrease exposure for humans.

What Are The Symptoms Of Scabies?

From the time of exposure, it is usually three to four weeks before any symptoms develop.

  • Nocturnal itching – as the mites are active at night, the rashes itch more at night. The night time intensity is striking in scabies
  • Mite tunnels (burrows)– These occur under the skin and appear as small bumps or lines of bumps between the fingers, inside wrists, elbows and knees, under breasts and around nipples, waist bands, buttocks, upper thighs, scrotum and penis, and the sides and bottoms of feet. The head and back are usually spared. Scratching at lesions may cause secondary infection

Can Scabies Be Cured?

Yes. Scabies is curable. Scabies will persist indefinitely if not treated; but with the right treatment, it clears up quickly and completely.

How Is Scabies Diagnosed?

Scabies is diagnosed clinically on the basis of typical symptoms and the typical appearance of the skin rash. A scraping from the skin is sometimes sent to the laboratory to look for mites under the microscope if there is doubt about the diagnosis. If itching and a rash develop in several people who live in the same home at about the same time, then scabies is a likely cause.

What Is The Treatment For Scabies?

The treatment of scabies falls into two, equally important, halves:

  • Getting rid of your own scabies
  • Making sure that you & other contacts don’t catch it again. This means that all family members and contacts must be treated, whether they have itching or not

How To Prevent Spread To Others And Re-Infection?

Since scabies is spread by close contact, those who have had close contact with an infected person might want to be treated at the same time to prevent ping-pong infections. However, the careful washing of clothes and linen must still be done by all those exposed. Since the mite cannot live off the body for longer than 3-5 days, all clothes and linen which have been used recently should be washed with hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Re-infection is less likely if all of the above steps are followed.

Tags:  Scabies,infections,hygiene,immune system,

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