Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a tiny mite, Sarcoptes Scabiei. Although technically not a disease it is a very bothersome parasite that has a fast gestation period and can quickly infect an entire household.


Scabies causes intense itching, which often becomes worse at night. Small red bumps or lines appear on the body at sites where the female mite has burrowed into the skin to lay her eggs. The areas most commonly affected include the hands (especially between the fingers), wrists, elbows, lower abdomen, and genitals. The skin reaction may develop after a month or more of infestation. During this time, a person may pass the disease unknowingly to a sex partner or to another person with whom he or she has close contact.


Scabies is highly contagious and is spread primarily through sexual contact. However, it is also commonly transmitted by contact with an infected individuals skin, bed linen, towels, or furniture.


Scabies may be confused with other skin irritations such as poison ivy or eczema. To make an accurate diagnosis, a doctor takes a scraping of the irritated area and examines it under a microscope, to reveal the presence of the mite.


Family members and sex partners of a person with scabies are advised to undergo treatment as well. Twenty-four hours after drug therapy, a person with scabies infestation is no longer contagious, even though the skin irritation may persist for some time. As with pubic lice, special care must be taken to rid clothing and bedding of any mites. Always remember to finish completely your drug treatment prescribed by a doctor.


Non-prescription remedies such as sulfur ointment are available. Sulfur is fairly effective but may be objectionable due to its odor and messiness. Itching can persist even after the infestation has been eliminated due of lingering skin irritation. A hydrocortisone cream/ointment or a soothing lotion may provide relief from itching.

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