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What is Scabies?

Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a very tiny mite known as the Sarcoptesscabiei. These microscopic mites can live on your skin for up to two months. They reproduce on the surface of your skin and then burrow into your skin and lay eggs. This causes a very itchy, pimple-like rash to form on the skin.There are approximately 300 million cases of scabies in the world every year.

It’s a highly contagious condition that can easily be passed from one person to another through direct skin contact. It may also be transmitted through infested clothing or bedding. Although scabies can be bothersome, the infestation can usually be treated effectively.

Treatment often consists of medications that kill scabies mites and their eggs. Since scabies is so contagious, doctors will usually recommend treatment for an entire group of people who are in frequent contact with a person who has scabies.

Scabies: Get The Facts

  • Scabies is a skin infection that can easily spread from one person to another. Scabies occurs as an itchy rash that is triggered by an Itch mite infestation.
  • Scabies infection is transmitted from one person to another by direct skin contact with the infected.
  • One of the most identifiable symptom of the scabies infection is a severe rash that occurs on the affected area of the skin.
  • Scabies is also transmitted from one person to another by sexual contact. However, not all cases of scabies occur due to sexual interaction.
  • To treat scabies there are a number of oral and topical drugs that are recommended.

How Does Scabies Infection Feel?

The biggest worry associated with the scabies infection is the fact that the mites cannot be detected with naked eye as they attack the body. They burry themselves deep inside the skin triggering off the infection before you may even realize it.

However, as the infection progresses the symptoms may start to get noticed. Initially the infection causes an itching which may not even seem alarming as it may not be very intense.

The itching normally progresses getting worse during the nights when the mites get active. This intense itching could causes burning sensation and could even cause sleep disturbances in people. Some people feel the infection like insect bites or getting pin prick like sensation around the affected area.

For various others it feels like the patch after the mosquito bite which stays on for a long duration of time.

What are the Symptoms of Scabies?

After the initial exposure to scabies, it can take up to six weeks for symptoms to appear. The symptoms usually develop more quickly in people who’ve had scabies before.The hallmark symptoms of scabies include a rash and intense itching that gets worse at night.Continuous scratching of the infected area can create sores that become infected.

If this occurs, additional treatment with antibiotics for the skin infection may be indicated. In babies and toddlers, the most commonly infected areas are the:

  • head
  • face
  • neck
  • hands
  • soles of the feet

How do scabies spread?

Scabies may be spread in the following ways:

  • prolonged skin-to-skin contact, such as holding hands
  • intimate personal contact, such as having sexual intercourse
  • sharing clothing, bedding, or towels that have been used by someone with a scabies infection

Since scabies is mostly transmitted through direct physical contact, the infestation can easily be passed on to family members, friends, and sexual partners. The infestation may also spread quickly in:

  • schools
  • nursing homes
  • sports teams
  • prisons

How to Diagnose Scabies?

Your doctor will likely be able to diagnose scabies simply by performing a physical exam and inspecting the affected area of skin. In some cases, your doctor may want to confirm the diagnosis by removing a mite from the skin with a needle.

If a mite can’t easily be found, your doctor will scrape off a small section of skin to obtain a tissue sample. This sample will then be examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of scabies mites or their eggs.

What are the Treatments for Scabies?

Treatment for scabies usually involves getting rid of the infestation with prescription ointments, creams, and lotions that can be applied to the skin directly.Your doctor will probably instruct you to apply the medicine at night when the mites are most active. You may need to treat all of your skin from the neck down. The medicine can be washed off the following morning. Make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions very carefully.

During the first week of treatment, it may seem as if the symptoms are getting worse. However, after the first week, you’ll notice less itching and you should be completely healed by the fourth week of treatment. Skin that hasn’t healed within a month may still be infested with scabies mites.Contact your doctor right away if you find that symptoms persist after four weeks of treatment.

Because the infection can easily spread among family members and the close people; the doctor may recommend even others in the family to go ahead with a mild form of the treatment to prevent the infection from catching others.

Commonly prescribed medicines for Scabies include:

Permethrin cream: This is a topical cream which contains chemicals that are effective in killing the scabies causing mites as well as their eggs. This medication is safe for use for adults, children as well as expecting mothers. This medication is however not advised for breastfeeding mothers, as the medicine could pass from the milk to the baby.

Lindane lotion: This medicine also is a topical ointment but contains chemical compounds of higher intensity. This medicine is advised for people who are unable to take other forms of treatment or where the other forms of treatment were ineffective. This medicine is strictly not advisable for children below 2years of age, for expecting and lactating mothers or for the elderly adults. Since this medicine could be heavy for some people, careful consideration is done by the medical practitioner before recommending it to any patient.

Crotamiton (Eurax): This medicine is available in the form or a cream or a lotion with a general application of once a day for upto two days. It is normally applicable for certain cases of scabies only and may fail with the others. This medicine is certainly not advisable for small kids or pregnant and lactating women.

Lifestyle and Coping with Scabies

If you are living with someone suffering from the scabies infection, it just means a number of precautions to be exercised by you as well. Certain measures are necessary to prevent the infection from spreading or worsening.

  • It is important to wash all the personal belongings of the infected person with hot water so as to kill the mites that may got attached to them.
  • The beds, walls and the furniture will need to be disinfected using natural disinfectants like borax powder.
  • Using a paste of turmeric and neem is known to be an effective natural remedy to treat the scabies infection and is also harmless without any side effects.
  • Eating  a healthy diet is important to improve the immune system and make it fight the infection better.

Complications Associated with the Scabies Infection

Untreated scabies can trigger several complications for the infected person. There are mainly two forms of infections which could result from a scabies infection, namely secondary infection and crusted infection.

Secondary infection: Continuous scratching that occurs as a response to the itching of the skin often results in scabies. This makes a person highly susceptible to developing bacterial infections like impetigo. Often, antibiotics are advised to treat the secondary form of the scabies infection. Scabies can also worsen certain skin conditions that are existing from before in a person like eczema. However conditions that occur due to scabies are known to get better after the scabies infection gets treated.

Crusted scabies is also commonly referred to as Norwegian scabies which is a more intense for of the scabies infection with a large number of mites being present.

Normal scabies eventually turns into the crusted scabies after a reaction from the skin. This condition eventually begins to show up around various parts of the body. The condition can also occur around the head, neck, nail and other external parts of the body.

In case of this crusted scabies infection the mite infestation increases to a large extent that can result in thick crusts to form on the surface of the skin. This condition is often mistaken to be ofter types of skin infections.

Crusted scabies largely occurs to people suffering from a weak immune system when the body gives in to various germs and bacterial attacks. According to various studies people who have a healthy immune system can naturally prevent the scabies infection as the reproduction of the mites on the skin gets interrupted. In case of those suffering from a compromised immune system the body is unable to fight the infection causing bacteria and hence the scabies mites grow rapidly. People suffering from the scabies infection could have mites ranging from a thousand to million in their body at a single infected spot. Since the mites are large in number, crusted scabies can spread extremely fast from the infected person. Even a slight contact with the infected could cause the infection to transmit. People suffering from crusted scabies should have their clothing, bed linen and all personal belongings at a distance from other people.

However, when crusted scabies transmits to a healthier body with a stronger immune system, it will only cause a normal scabies, as their body will internally fight the infection.

A number of topical medications may be recommended to treat crusted scabies infection. Sometimes oral medicines may also be recommended to kill the infection causing mites from within the body.