Scabies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabei. The name Sarcoptes scabiei is derived from the Greek words sarx (the flesh) and koptein (to smite or cut) and the Latin word scabere. It is characterized by superficial burrows, intense pruritus (itching) and secondary infection. Scabies is spread by personal contact, e.g., by shaking hands or sleeping together or by close contact with infected articles such as clothing, bedding or towels. 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. The most prominent symptom of scabies is intense itching particularly at night. The scabies mite is an obligate parasite and completes its entire life cycle on humans. 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 a worldwide public health problem, affecting persons of all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups.

Scabies mites are very fastidious. Scabies rash appears as tiny red intensely itchy bumps on the limbs and trunk. Scabies can be spread by the insect itself or by the egg. Prompt action is required to rid a person of the insects and eggs. The areas of the body most commonly affected by scabies are the hands and feet (especially the webs of skin between the fingers and toes), the inner part of the wrists, and the folds under the arms. However, other forms of physical contact, such as mothers hugging their children, is sufficient to spread the mites. In a classic scabies infection, anywhere from 5-15 mites live on the host. Little evidence of infection exists during the first month, but after 4 weeks and with subsequent infections, a delayed-type IV hypersensitivity reaction to the mites, eggs, and scybala occurs. Because of the contagious nature of scabies, doctors often recommend treatment for entire families or contact groups to eliminate the mite.

Causes of Scabies

The common causes and risk factor’s of Scabies include the following:

A mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) which burrows under the skin.

An arthropod of the order Acarina.

Skin-to-skin contact.

Physical contact, such as mothers hugging their children.

Contact with someone else who is infected with it.

Sharing clothing or bedding with an infected person can spread the mites.

Symptoms of Scabies

Some sign and symptoms related to Scabies are as follows:

Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body.

Pus-filled bumps.

Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection.

Scabies burrows.

Sores on the body caused by scratching.

Generalised rash.

Treatment of Scabies

Here is list of the methods for treating Scabies:

Several topical treatments exist for scabies, the most common of which are Kwell lotion (lindane) and Elimite (permethrin).

Topical (surface) medications are often effective and must be applied thoroughly to all skin from the face down, especially to areas known to be primarily affected (skin folds, etc.).

If scabies is suspected, the doctor may scrape a small part of the affected skin and examine the scrapings under a microscope for signs of scabies mites.

Two medications commonly prescribed are permethrin (Elimite, Acticin) and crotamiton (Eurax).

Benzyl benzoate emulsion.

The doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your child develops a bacterial skin infection such as impetigo in addition to the scabies infection.

Doctors sometimes prescribe oral medications for people with altered immune systems or for people who don’t respond to the prescription lotions and creams.