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Scabies - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a tiny, eight-legged burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The word scabies is Latin for "itch". The female scabies mite lays her eggs in burrows or channels just beneath the skin. The scabies mite is an obligate parasite and completes its entire life cycle on humans. The burrows sometimes appear as short, wavy, reddish, or darkened lines on the skin's surface, especially around the wrists and between the fingers. Scabies is a common parasitic infection of global proportion. Young mites develop in a few days and emerge from the burrows. Worldwide, an estimated 300 million cases occur annually Other variants of the scabies mite can cause infestation in other mammals such as dogs, cats, pigs, ferrets, and horses, and these variants can infest human skin as well. Scabies is not due to poor hygiene. Nor is it due to animal mites, which do not infest humans. Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in hospitals, institutions, child-care facilities, and nursing homes.

Crusted, or Norwegian scabies, is a distinctive and highly contagious form of scabies. Scabies is contagious, and is usually transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or through contact with someone else who is infected with it. Infestation is common, found worldwide, and affects people of all races and social classes. The infection spreads more easily in crowded conditions and in situations where there is a lot of close contact - like child-care centers or nursing homes. Symptoms will appear from two to six weeks in people who have not previously been exposed to scabies infestations. In this variant, hundreds to millions of mites infest the host individual, who is usually immunocompromised, elderly, or physically and/or mentally disabled and impaired. Scabies mites burrow into the skin producing pimple-like irritations or burrows. The female scabies mite burrows into the outside layers of the skin where she lays up to 3 eggs each day for her lifetime of one to two months. Medications applied to your skin kill the mites, although you may still experience some itching for several weeks.

Causes of Scabies

The comman causes of Scabies include the following:

  • Scabies is caused by a mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) which burrows under the skin, but the rash and itch are much more widespread than the location of the mites.
  • Humans can be affected by animal scabies.
  • Prolonged contact between household members may allow transmission to occur.
  • Scabies is contagious, and is usually transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or through contact with someone else who is infected with it.
  • Close physical contact and, less often, sharing clothing or bedding with an infected person can spread the mites.
  • The infection spreads more easily in crowded conditions and in situations where there is a lot of close contact - like child-care centers or nursing homes.

Symptoms of Scabies

Some sign and symptoms related to Scabies are as follows:

  • The most common symptom of scabies is severe itching, which may be worse at night or after a hot bath.
  • Chronic Fatigue.
  • The pencil-like marks or tracks typically appear in folds of your skin.
  • Yellowish substance oozing from the skin, then hardening.
  • Hair like fibers coming out the skin that are not hair; they are more coarse to the touch.
  • The child may be tired and cranky because of loss of sleep from itching.
  • Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.
  • Thin, irregular marks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin.
  • Wormy looking things that pop out of the skin, that can be seen when the light is just right.
  • Impetigo , a bacterial skin infection, may occur in skin that is already infected with scabies.

Treatment of Scabies

Here is list of the methods for treating Scabies:

  • The treatment of choice at the moment is Permethrin , in view of its relative safety, ease of application, and as it tends not to irritate the skin.
  • Apply lotion to a clean body from the neck down to the toes and left overnight (8 hours). After 8 hours, take a bath or shower to wash off the lotion.
  • Prescription skin creams or lotions containing 5% permethrin, lindane, or crotamiton will kill the mites and eggs.
  • Two medications commonly prescribed are permethrin (Elimite, Acticin) and crotamiton (Eurax).
  • The doctor may also prescribe an antihistamine to help relieve the itching and a cream like hydrocortisone to help the rash go away faster.
  • Doctors sometimes prescribe oral medications for people with altered immune systems or for people who don't respond to the prescription lotions and creams.