Scabies is a highly contagious skin disease caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Mites are small eight-legged parasites. They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter long, and burrow into the skin to produce intense itching, which tends to be worse at night. Scabies infestation occurs worldwide and is very common. Scabies can affect anyone of any age or race. It has been estimated that about 300 million cases occur each year throughout the world. Human scabies has been reported for over 2,500 years. Scabies has been reported to occur in epidemics in nursing homes, hospitals and other institutions. In the U.S., scabies frequently affects the homeless population. It also occurs episodically in other populations of all socioeconomic groups, as well.
Scabies causes intense itching and a pimply rash. The itching will often be worse at night than during the day. Itching and rash show up on the penis, buttocks, wrist, nipples, waist, shoulder blades, arm pits, elbows, but it is not limited to only these areas. Sometimes scabies might also result in tiny burrows in the skin caused by the female mites tunneling beneath the skin. If a person has scabies for the first time, it will usually take 2-6 weeks for symptoms to start appearing. For those who have had scabies before, symptoms can occur in as little as 24 hours. It is important to know that even when symptoms are not present, scabies can still spread.
Is scabies a sexually transmitted infection?
Scabies can be classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), because it can be spread through sexual contact. Scabies is spread by direct skin-to-skin touching. This usually happens during sex, especially when your bodies are touching or close for a long time. Most adults get scabies from sex, but you can get it other ways, as well. Scabies can be spread to other people in your home, and it’s common in crowded places that may have lots of close skin contact. You can sometimes get scabies from sharing an infected person’s clothes, towels, or bedding. It’s very hard to get scabies from quick, casual touching, like handshakes or hugs. You also can’t usually get scabies from toilet seats.
Several treatments are available that are somewhat effective. These topical treatments help clear up the scabies rash. They also reduce the risk of more systemic infections. However, there is a growing recognition that better treatments need to be developed. In areas of the world where scabies is common, people often suffer from recurrent infections. These can lead to serious problems, including bacterial infections of the blood (sepsis). In addition to treating your infection, it's important to treat your home. This includes using special detergents to kill mites on clothing and sheets. Fortunately, although disinfecting your home is annoying, it's very helpful.
It shouldn’t frighten you that the scabies infection is often classified as STD. It sure is irritating but having it treated is much easier than most other STDs! As with all STDs, the most effective protection is to abstain from sexual activity or be monogamous with one long-term partner who does not have scabies.