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Do You Know All These About Scabies?

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Scabies bite on hand Scabies. Scabies is a skin infection caused by a mite that can live on the skin for months.

Overview | Questions and Answers | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Complications | Diagnosis| Treatment | Prevention |

What Is Scabies?

Scabies is a common skin disease, caused by the infestation of a parasite mite, called Sarcoptes Scabies. Scabies burrow, lay eggs and get feed on the skin and put waste materials on the skin also. All these are unbearable to our skin, hence it results in the form of relentless itchy rashes and patterns. You feel most of the itching where the mites burrows.

An infected person at least has 15-20 mites on his/her skin at a time.

All about sarcoptes scabiei:

 Sarcoptes scabiei is a tiny, 1/3 millimeter long and eight-legged parasite mite. This scabies burrows into the skin which results in intense itching. They crawl and lay their eggs inside the skin which helps to multiply the scabies mites and cause intense itching with different patterns on the skin. This itching gets worse at night. It can be seen under a microscope but not with naked eyes. This mite is also known as human skin mite.

The scabies mites need skin to feed and survive, but they can survive 48-72 hours even without a host.

Fact: About 300 million cases of scabies are found each year, worldwide.

Where do scabies mites live or can be found on our skin?

Although, it can be spread, live and found everywhere in the body. But some of it’s favourite spots are:

  • Head neck
  • Between fingers
  • The folds of the wrist, elbow or knee
  • On the breasts or genitals
  • Around the waistline
  • Around navel
  • Face
  • Palms
  • Soles of the feet etc.

Is scabies contagious?

Yes, scabies is a highly contagious infestation. It can he easily spread from one person to the other through any physical contact, sharing of clothes, furniture, essentials etc.

Who are at high risk of getting scabies?

People of all ages can get infected with scabies. But, children, young adults, immunocompromised individuals and all those who works or spend time in a crowded places such as educational institutions, hospitals, local trains etc. are at high risk of getting scabies.

Since scabies is so contagious, doctors often recommend treatment not only for the infected person but his family and close ones also. Because all those who comes in contact or close with infected person can also develop scabies.

How can scabies spread?

Since scabies can not fly or jump but crawl, therefore they need time to get onto the skin of one to the other. They can not spread through a quick handshake or hug. Get spread only to close ones, family members and sexual partners who can have a long physical contact with the infected person and his/her essentials like towels etc.

Causes of scabies:

  • Spread through physical contact
  • Sharing of essential, such as towel, beddings,
  • Scabies infected pets (especially dogs and cats) etc.

Symptoms of scabies:

If you are infected with scabies for the first time then you will take up to 2-6 weeks to get developed symptoms. Or if you get infected again, then your body can recognize the scabies symptoms within 1-4 days. Its symptoms are —

  • Severe itching, especially at night
  • Thin, irregular tiny burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin
  • Pimple-like rash
  • Sores caused by scratching
  • Thick crusts (Norwegian scabies): This is a severe form of scabies, in which hundreds to thousands of mites and mite eggs are harbored within skin crusts, which cause severe skin symptoms.
  • Impetigo etc.

People at high risk of getting scabies are:

  • Children (through day care and schools)
  • Parents of young children
  • Sexually active adults
  • People with multiple sex partners
  • Old adults
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • People infected with HIV/AIDS
  • Transplant recipients
  • People who are having immunosuppressant pills etc.

Complications of scabies:

  • Prolonged and intense scratching of the skin
  • Due to scratching, a secondary bacterial infection can develop from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or beta-hemolytic streptococci.
  • Development of severe form of scabies i.e. crusted scabies. Which is quite hard to treat.

Diagnosis of scabies:

Your doctor will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing. Irresistible itching especially at night is one of the prominent symptoms of scabies. To get the diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe some tests. Some of the tests are as follows —

  • Skin scraping test — In this test, your doctor will scrape a little skin, covered with a drop of mineral oil; sideways over the burrowed area with the help of a scalpel blade. Then the scraped skin of yours will examine and microscopically. Through this test, your doctor can identify the presence of mites, eggs, or pellets on your skin, which can diagnose your scabies infestation. Although, this test is quite difficult; however, burrows can be hard to identify.
  • Skin biopsy – When your symptoms are suspect to be of any other disease rather than scabies, the skin biopsy test can be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – This test is used to identify the genetic materials of the scabies mites. Although, this test is not prescribed in general. Conditions such as crusted scabies or severe form of scabies etc., which can’t be or difficult to diagnose through other tests, requires PCR test.

Treatment of scabies:

  • The safest and most effective treatment option is – mite killer cream. Apply a mite-killer cream like permethrin on the affected area by scabies and leave it overnight, then washed it off. This application needs to be repeated for seven days at least or as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Medications that can be used in the treatment are as follows —
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol)
  • Crotamiton lotion (10%) or cream (10%).
  • Sulfo-lac cream or ointment
  • 25% benzyl benzoate  lotion 
  • 10% sulfur ointment.
  • Antihistamines can be used to relieve itching etc.

These medications can kill mites quickly, but the skin needs time to heal. It will take about 4 weeks to have visible healing of the skin.

Treatment of scabies is possible with the help of scabicide medications. But, people suffering from a severe form of scabies such as Norwegian scabies, need a combination of different treatments. Although, it is curable in all situations recovery time may vary according to the severity of scabies from person to person.

Prevention tips:

  • Wash the bedclothes, towels, etc. With hot water and dry them in the hot heat, to prevent them from spreading. Spray furniture, rugs, etc. To kill the mites present in them.
  • Such articles which can not be washed must be placed in a sealed plastic bags to starve and prevent the spreading of mites as well.
  • Not only infected individuals, but all the family members and close ones must get treatment for scabies.
  • Avoid any type of close or physical contact with scabies infected person.

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