Scabies

WHAT ARE THEY?

Scabies are parasitic mites that burrow below the surface of the skin. The mites lay eggs under the skin, which then hatch into larvae that move to new areas and spread infection. Mites prefer warm areas such as folds of skin on elbows, buttocks, knees, breasts, the penis, as well as between fingers and under nails.

HOW WOULD I GET THEM?

Scabies are typically passed through intimate sexual and non-sexual contact. Scabies can live for three days on clothing, towels, and bedding, so these items may be a source of transmission.

HOW WOULD I KNOW I HAD THEM?

The most common symptom of a scabies infection is severe itching, especially at nighttime. An individual who is infected may also develop a reddish rash on fingers, wrists, armpits, waist, nipples, and penis. These symptoms typically develop within 3 to 4 weeks of becoming infected.

A doctor can usually diagnose scabies from a visual inspection. They may also send a skin sample to the lab for confirmation of infection.

CAN THEY BE TREATED AND CURED?

Yes. Scabies are treated through special creams or lotions. It is also very important that a person infected with scabies cleans anything that might have mites on it, such as clothes, bedding, and towels. These items need to be washed in very hot water or tied up in a plastic bag for two weeks to prevent the scabies from spreading. If there are any items that cannot be washed or bagged, they should be vacuumed.

All sexual partners who have had contact with the infected person in the month before the diagnosis should be treated to help prevent the infection from spreading.

IF THEY AREN’T TREATED, CAN THEY LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS PROBLEMS?

Persistent scratching of irritated skin can cause a secondary bacterial infection.