Scabies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabei . The word scabies comes from the Latin word for “scratch” (scabere). Mites are small eight-legged parasites (in contrast to insects, which have six legs). They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter long, and burrow into the skin to produce intense itching which tends to be worse at night. The mites which cause scabies are not visible with the naked eye but can be seen with a magnifying glass or microscope.

Scabies can affect people of any age but is most common in children and young adults. It is highly contagious and is spread by close physical contact, especially in overcrowded living conditions. There are sometimes outbreaks in schools and residential or nursing homes. It can also be passed on by sexual contact. The elderly and people who do not have a fully functioning immune system are more likely to have crusted scabies . This is a highly contagious condition in which the skin thickens, forming a crust, and rather than having the usual amount of female mites (around 12), a person with crusted scabies can have an infestation of thousands. Crusted scabies is transmitted by physical contact and can also be transmitted via bedding, towels, clothes, and upholstery.

Scabies is a transmissible ectoparasite skin infection characterized by superficial burrows, intense pruritus and secondary infection . It is common all over the world, and it affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies is a very itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the outer layers of the skin.

In adults, the most common sites are between the fingers and on the wrists, although infection may manifest in elderly people as a diffuse truncal eruption. In infants and children, the face, scalp, palms, and soles are also often affected. Infection with the scabies mite causes discomfort and intense itching of the skin, particularly at night, with irritating papular or vesicular eruptions. The discomfort and itching can be especially debilitating among immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV/AIDS.

Causes of Scabies

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. Scabies is passed on from one person to another through intimate contact between bed fellows, infected bedding and clothes, by sharing a bed or from children who hold hands while playing. The mite can live on the discarded clothes for a couple of days. After contact, it takes about 6 weeks for the itching to start.

The itching is more severe at night. Soon a rash appears on the body this rash is not seen on the face and is most prominent on the hands, the waist, the abdomen and on the genitalia. Scabies is also caused by using the infected bedclothes and undergarments, but usually people do not get infected though mode as it is a very uncommon mode.

Symptoms of Scabies

1. Sores caused by scratching

2. Pimple-like irritations or a rash

3. Intense itching, especially at night

Treatment of Scabies

Skin lotions containing permethrin, lindane or crotamiton are available through a physician’s prescription for the treatment of scabies. All are applied to the whole body except the head and neck, and the whole family should be treated at the same time.

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. This should be left on for at least eight hours. This may be used for the head and necks of children less than two years old. Benzyl benzoate emulsion. This is washed off after twenty four hours, and repeated two or three times. In infants or young children it is wise to dilute in two or three times as much water, as this helps reduce skin irritation.