Definition Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the scabies mite. It often causes intense itchiness.
What is going on in the body? The scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, is specific to humans and spread by skin-to-skin contact. The mites live just below the skin's surface in an infected person. Generally, with the first episode of scabies, itching and skin lesions begin 1 to 1 1/2 months after infection. With reinfestation, symptoms often begin immediately. Scabies symptoms may continue for weeks or months prior to diagnosis and can continue for years if left untreated.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? Symptoms of scabies include:
itchy bumps in characteristic locations such as between fingers, on the wrists, or on the genitals.
tiny burrow lines on the scaly, itchy areas of the hands and wrists.
What can be done to prevent the condition? Since the disease is spread by skin-to-skin contact, avoiding specific contact with untreated, infected people is the only prevention. Unfortunately, it is usually not known whether someone is infested at the time the disease is transmitted to another individual.
How is the condition diagnosed? Scabies is diagnosed through clinical examination in conjunction with a mineral oil scraping that reveals the mites or their products.
What are the long-term effects of the condition? There are no long-term effects after a scabies infestation has been treated.
What are the risks to others? People with scabies can infect others until they receive treatment.
What are the treatments for the condition? Scabies is treated with scabicidal therapy using topical permethrin or lindane.
What are the side effects of the treatments? Infants and children with a prior history of seizures have been known to have a seizure when lindane is used.
What happens after treatment for the condition? In general, symptoms are relieved quite quickly. Sometimes the hypersensitivity and irritation can continue. Secondary bacterial infection may happen while the person is infested and must be treated with an antibiotic. Secondary eczematous (inflammation of the skin) eruptions are also common. People who have made contact with the infected person, such as family members, baby sitters, or sexual partners, should be treated.
Author: Lynn West, MD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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