Scabies is a skin disorder characterized by extensive itching due to tiny, burrowing mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. There is a strong urge to scratch in the areas where they burrow, especially in the night. Scabies spreads very quickly through physical contact with a contaminated person or object.
Doctors often recommend treatment for the entire family or contact groups due to its extremely contagious nature.
Medications which can kill the mites are readily available and help reduce itching, but some people may continue itching for several weeks.
Itchy and thin, irregular burrow tracts made up of tiny blisters on the skin are the main symptoms of scabies.
Scabies may involve any part of the body, but is mostly found:
Between fingers: Check between your fingers for tiny blisters which can indicate the presence of scabies. Remember, scabies is extremely contagious, so be sure to wash your hands with disinfectant each time you scratch to avoid infecting others.
Armpits: Checking this particular area for burrows or blisters can prove to be a tad problematic. Use a mirror and try to see if your armpits have burrow marks or blisters, and if so, consult a physician for treatment. On a side note, it is always a good idea to keep your armpits shaved or trimmed to facilitate observation.
Around the waist: Make it a point to check around your waist. If you feel you have developed sudden blisters for no apparent reason and have an itching sensation in the general area, chances are high that you are infected with scabies. Consult your physician for immediate treatment.
Along the inside of the waist: Make sure that you check the inside of the waist, as scabies are often known to infect this area. If you are developing red blister marks all around the inside of the waist, accompanied by an itching sensation, chances are high that you have scabies. But pay your doctor a visit to get an accurate diagnosis and seek immediate treatment.
Inner elbow: Check your inner elbow for blister marks. It is often easy to mistake scabies burrows for mosquito bites, but they are not the same. Feel free to research online for images of scabies blisters so that you are able to easily identify them.
Soles of feet: Check the soles of your feet for small blisters or unexplained bumps or pimple-like formations. Scabies bites are often hard to differentiate from other insect bites, but a few quick homemade tests should help you determine whether you have a scabies infestation or not. Consult your physician right away; although the mite infestation is irksome, it can be eliminated with the correct measures.
Around the breasts: These mites are often known to make burrows in and around the chest area, so examine your breasts and general chest area for unexplained blisters or burrows. Should you locate some, chances are high that you have a scabies infestation in your residence.
Around the male genital area: Examining this part of the body can prove to be both irksome and difficult. But a closer inspection should help you identify any unexplained blisters in and around the area. Consult a physician for some immediate relief from the itching sensation; an application of benzyl benzoate lotion, along with others, should help eliminate the scabies.
Buttocks: Checking the buttocks for indications of scabies is bound to be hard, but use a mirror to see if you have any raised patches, blisters, or burrows on your back or buttocks. Consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis and get treated for the condition right away.
Knees: Inspect both your knees and the back of them as well for indications of scabies. If you locate some early signs of a scabies infestation, like blisters or raised patches, you will want to get it treated right away before a re-infestation occurs.
Shoulder blades: Examining this part of the body is also hard. As with the buttocks, use a mirror to check your shoulder blades for signs of a scabies infestation. Consult a physician as well to seek immediate treatment and relief from scabies bites.
Signs and symptoms can take a few days to develop and may remain even after medications are finished.
The cause of scabies is the eight-legged mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The female produces a tunnel through which the eggs are deposited. Once in the adequate environment, the eggs hatch and the larvae mature and spread to other parts of the body.
The itching occurs as a result of an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs, and their waste. The mites can spread very easily due to physical contact with an infected person, less often through sharing clothing and bedding.
Scabies on animals like dogs and cats are caused by a distinct species of the mite and each prefers their specific host. That is why people are unlikely to develop full-scale symptoms from other sources.
4 Making a diagnosis
Diagnosis of scabies does not require extensive medical imaging or laboratory tests. An in-depth examination of the skin is enough to diagnose the condition.
It is recommended to see a dermatologist, but a regular physician can also do the job efficiently. They will look for the characteristic burrows and, once a mite is located, a scrape from that area is taken to examine under a microscope; a mere visual inspection may not be enough since it is easy to mistake these blisters for mosquito bites, but a closer examination of the skin and derma under the microscope should be enough to identify the root cause for the blisters.
The doctor will also ask about any history of the disease which should be answered precisely.
The treatment for scabies includes medications such as:
Permethrin cream, five percent (not recommended for nursing mothers)
Lindane lotion (not recommended for children younger than two years of age, pregnant women, nursing mothers, or the elderly)
Crotamiton (not recommended for children or women who are nursing or pregnant)
Ivermectin (oral medication for systemic effects, usually prescribed for immune-compromised people)
The first three are topical medications usually applied on the affected area and left for at least eight hours. Because of the highly contagious abilities of the mite, the treatment is recommended for all household members or other close contacts.
If, after using these medications, new burrows appear, a second treatment is needed. In some people, itching doesn’t stop promptly after the mites are killed; it takes several weeks to fade away.
To prevent the reoccurrence and spread of scabies to other people, certain steps must be taken since this infection is extremely contagious:
Cleanliness: Clothes should be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water to kill the mites and any eggs they may have laid; towels and bedding must also be washed. Make sure that you sleep by yourself and keep all your bedding separate from others.
Use a disinfectant when cleaning your home: Make sure you mop the floor with disinfectant while ensuring that your home is kept clean and secure from further mite infestations. There are various home-cleaning fluids, which act to eliminate the mites completely, so make sure you use the appropriate brand when cleaning your rooms.
Try to minimize contact with others, including shaking hands or hugging, until the infestation has cleared up. Even a mere hug can pass on the mite to others, so make sure you maintain a healthy distance from all for the time being.
Do not share utensils: Be sure to use separate utensils for cooking and eating to prevent spreading scabies. Once you have eaten, wash the utensils in hot water to kill any mites that may be present.
Vacuum your house thoroughly: Use a high-powered vacuum to clean the house from top to bottom. Then, clean it out using bleach to completely disinfect it.
Starve the mites: Items that can’t be washed should be sealed in plastic bags and left away from others for a couple of weeks. This will starve and kill the mites.
7 Alternative and homeopathic remedies
The following home remedies may help reduce itching:
Cool and soak the skin: Applying a cooling lotion like aloe vera should help soothe the skin and treat the blisters as well. There are various lotions you can use, but you may be allergic to a few, so consult your physician and opt for the cream that suits your body.
Antihistamines: Your skin forms blisters from the mild allergic reaction to the mite bites, so taking antihistamines should help control this effectively.
8 Lifestyle and coping
Maintaining a hygienic lifestyle is the best way to prevent the spread of scabies. Hygienic steps include:
Washing hands, clothes, and bedding
Avoiding contact with others and not sharing any objects. For example, try to avoid touching commonly-used objects such as the TV or remote until the infestation is cleared up. Once you are sure that it is gone, you can then start cleaning the house and take all measures to avoid re-infestation.
Since this contagious disease requires isolation of the infected person, he or she must maintain emotional stability and seek doctor’s consultation.
9 Risks and complications
There are several risks and complications associated with scabies. There are no typical risk factors for this infection like those of other systemic diseases. In the case of scabies, risk factors include:
Contact with people with scabies
Using any object touched by a contaminated person
People with a chronic health condition
HIV/AIDS patients, people with a weak immune system, older people in nursing homes, and living in unhygienic conditions
The complications of scabies are not life-threatening, but include the following:
Breaking the skin and allowing the possibility for secondary bacterial infections, such as impetigo
Crusted scabies in immunocompromised people (a severe form of scabies in which crusts and scales develop)
Rooms should be thoroughly vacuumed and cleaned after people with scabies use them. Things that cannot be cleaned can be removed of scabies mites by storing them in tightly sealed plastic bags for a week. The mites do not survive more than 3 days without human skin.
To prevent scabies from spreading, clean all bedsheets, clothing, and linen with hot and soapy water within 3 days of starting scabies treatment. Anyone with scabies is infectious until treatment begins.
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