Defining scabies: treatment and symptoms

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Defining scabies: treatment and symptoms



Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a mite known as the Sarcoptes Scabiei. If this infestation is untreated, these microscopic mites can live on your skin for months. These mites reproduce on the surface of your skin and then burrow into it and lay eggs. This could cause an itchy, red rash that forms on the skin. In a first-ever infection a person will usually develop symptoms in between two and six weeks, and during the second infection, symptoms may begin in as little as 24 hours. These symptoms can be present across most of the body or just certain areas such as the wrists, between fingers, or along the waistline. Scabies is caused by infection with the female mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis, and ectoparasite which burrows into the skin and the symptoms of scabies are due to an allergic reaction to the mites.


Healthline mentioned on their website that there are approximately 130 million cases of scabies in the world at any given time. It is a highly contagious condition which can be easily passed from one person to another through direct skin contact, and it can also be transmitted through infested clothing or bedding. In a website called,, they also added that the scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body - apart from the head. JAMA Dermatology posted on their website that scabies is a common problem in chronic health care facilities which makes the diagnosis and management very difficult.


Although difficult, scabies can be treated easily once it is diagnosed by the appropriate medical practitioner. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of the infestation and having a proper evaluation by a dermatologist could prevent further damages to the patient’s skin. Anne Arundel Dermatology posted on their website that the tiny pest’s short life expectancy enables it to quickly grab on to the nearest host to ensure its survival. Which means, scabies can spread through extended physical contact - as well as through the bedding, clothes, and other personal effects of an infected person.

Signs and symptoms

The characteristic symptoms of a scabies infection include intense itching and superficial burrows. The burrow tracks are often linear, to the point that a neat “line” of four or more closely placed and equally developed mosquito-like “bites” is almost diagnostic of the disease. 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 and the hallmark symptoms of scabies include a rash and intense itching that gets worse at night. The affected person might experience continuous scratching at the infected area which can create sores that become infected.


In its early stages, scabies may be mistaken for other skin conditions because the rash looks similar to acne and mosquito bites and one of the signs of scabies is having a track-like burrow in the skin. These are raised lines which are usually grayish-white or skin-colored. Scabies can live anywhere in the body but they are usually found on between the fingers, the folds of the wrist, elbow, or knee, around the waistline and navel, on the breasts or genitals, and the head, neck, face, palms, and soles.


Treatments and diagnosis

Scabies may be diagnosed clinically in geographical areas where it is common when diffuse itching is present along with either lesion in two typical spots or itchiness are present in another household member. To detect the burrow, the suspected area is rubbed with ink from a fountain pen or a topical tetracycline solution, which glows under a special light. There will be a characteristic zigzag or S pattern of the burrow will appear across the skin when the skin is wiped with an alcohol pad. According to Andrews RM, author of “Skin Disorders, including pyoderma, scabies, and tinea infections”, a definitive diagnosis is made by finding either the scabies mites or their eggs and fecal pellets. Searches for these signs could involve either scraping a suspected area, mounting the sample in potassium hydroxide and examining it under a microscope, or using dermoscopy to examine the skin directly.


Anne Arundel Dermatology also added that in order to ensure that a person is completely safe from a scabies infection, he/she should seek an appropriate doctor that who could provide an appropriate treatment that would be very beneficial in healing the infestation. There will be two main treatment that is available to choose from, it involves the application of a cream which is usually Permethrin, and this could be applied to the entire body from the neck down and left on the skin for 8-10 hours. The doctors also suggest that oral medication called Ivermectin could also be done but it is not recommended for pregnant women, nursing mothers or young children who weigh less than 33 pounds.



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