Information Center > Scabies
STD Information Center
Scabies is caused by a tiny, hard to
detect, mite invasion in the human skin and is spread
from body-to-body contact. The infestation causes severe
itching, often keeping the sufferer awake at night
when the itching appears to be at its worse.
What is Scabies?
Scabies is an infestation of the skin
with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabei. Infestation
is common, found worldwide,
and affects people of all races and social classes. 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.
What are the signs and symptoms
of scabies infestation?
irritations, burrows or rash of the skin, especially
the webbing between the fingers; the
skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee; the penis,
breast, or shoulder blades.
- Intense itching,
especially at night and over most of the body.
- Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores
can sometimes become infected with bacteria.
How soon after infestation will symptoms begin?
For a person who has never been infested with scabies, symptoms may take 4-6
weeks to begin. For a person who has had scabies, symptoms appear within several
days. You do not become immune to an infestation.
do I get scabies?
By direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a
person already infested with scabies. Contact must
(a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread
infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual
household members. Infestation may also occur by
sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.
Who is at
risk for severe infestation?
People with weakened immune systems and the elderly
are at risk for a more severe form of scabies,
called Norwegian or crusted scabies.
How long will
Once away from the human body, mites do not survive
more than 48-72 hours. When living on a person,
an adult female mite can live up to a month.
pet spread scabies to me?
No. Pets become infested with a different kind of
scabies mite. If your pet is infested with scabies,
called mange) and they have close contact with
you, the mite can get under your skin and cause itching
and skin irritation. However, the mite dies in
couple of days and does not reproduce. The mites
may cause you to itch for several days, but you
do not need to be treated with special medication
kill the mites. Until your pet is successfully
treated, mites can continue to burrow into your skin
you to have symptoms.
How is scabies infestation diagnosed?
Diagnosis is most commonly made by looking at the burrows
or rash. A skin scraping may be taken to look for
mites, eggs, or mite fecal matter to confirm the
diagnosis. If a skin scraping or biopsy is taken
and returns negative, it is possible that you may
still be infested. Typically, there are fewer than
10 mites on the entire body of an infested person;
this makes it easy for an infestation to be missed.
scabies be treated?
Yes. Several lotions are available to treat scabies.
Always follow the directions provided by your physician
or the directions on the package insert. Apply
lotion to a clean body from the neck down to the
left overnight (8 hours). After 8 hours, take a
bath or shower to wash off the lotion. Put on clean
All clothes, bedding, and towels used by the infested
person 2 days before treatment should be washed
in hot water; dry in a hot dryer. A second treatment
of the body with the same lotion may be necessary
7-10 days later. Pregnant women and children are
often treated with milder scabies medications.
be treated for scabies?
Anyone who is diagnosed with scabies, as well as
his or her sexual partners and persons who have close,
prolonged contact to the infested person should
be treated. If your health care provider has instructed
family members to be treated, everyone should receive
treatment at the same time to prevent reinfestation.
soon after treatment will I feel better?
Itching may continue for 2-3 weeks, and does not
mean that you are still infested. Your health care
my prescribe additional medication to relieve itching
if it is severe. No new burrows or rashes should
appear 24-48 hours after effective treatment.
Information Center | STD
you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease,
you should see a physician immediately to be properly
diagnosed and treated. You should not try to diagnose
or treat symptoms on your own.
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