Definition of Scabies

scabiesScabies is a contagious parasitic infestation with the skin mite

Sarcoptes scabei that typically causes intense itching (pruritus) and visible bites or irritation to the skin.

The bites create small, reddened papules (bumps) and often a rash on the surrounding skin that is the burrows the mites make to lay their eggs.

The most common sites for scabies are skinfold areas such as in the groin, under the breasts and armpits, between the shoulders, behind the knees, at the creases in the elbows, and on the inner wrists. Itching typically becomes intense at night.

Aggressive scratching can cause secondary bacterial infections of the skin to develop. Scabies spreads through close physical contact.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The doctor diagnoses scabies with skin scrapings of the papules or rash. Microscopic examination of the scrapings often reveals eggs or fecal matter from the mites. Applying a lotion that contains a pesticide such as permethrin, lindane, or crotamiton will kill the mites, though the itching may persist for a few days.

All members of the household should receive treatment. It is also important to wash clothing, towels, and bed linens in very hot (130ºF) water for at least 10 minutes as a precaution to kill any mites these items might be harboring, as mites can live outside the body for up to 36 hours. Reinfestation may occur with reexposure.


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