Scabies is an itchy skin condition attributed to the infestation by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. These minute mites possess the ability to thrive on the skin for as long as two months. They not only reproduce on the skin surface, but also penetrate the skin and lay eggs, resulting in the development of very itchy rash akin to pimples on the skin surface.

Scabies is a very infectious condition and it can spread from an affected person to a healthy person via direct skin contact. At the same time, this condition can be transmitted via clothes and bedding infested by Sarcoptes scabiei.

While scabies may turn out to be an extremely inconvenient condition, usually the infestation of the microscopic mites called the Sarcoptes scabiei can be treated successfully. Often scabies treatment comprises medications that eliminate the scabies mites as well as their eggs. As this condition is highly infectious, usually doctors will advise treatment for all the persons who are in frequent contact with the affected individual.

Usually, scabies mites are found infesting body areas that are warm and moist, such as groins, armpits and buttocks. In addition, they are found in the folds of skin in other body areas, such as between fingers, behind the knees as well as on the inside of wrists and elbows. Generally, scabies is not found on the palms, soles of the feet or on the scalp. However, sometimes small children or even adults may be vulnerable and host vast multitudes of scabies mites in those areas. Adults may even harbour scabies mites on their temple, neck, forehead areas and even at the hairline.

Generally, it takes as long as six weeks from the date of being infected for the symptoms to appear. It has been found that the symptoms appear more quickly in people who have endured this condition earlier.

Scabies usually cause severe itching which worsens during the night or after the patient takes a bath. This type of itching is attributed to an allergic reaction of the body to the feces or excrement of the scabies mites. An individual will develop skin rashes anything between two to six weeks after coming in contact with the scabies mites and the rashes may appear even on body areas which are not infested by these tiny mites. Itching may tempt the sufferer to scratch the affected areas, but it will not provide any relief. Instead, scratching may lead to bleeding as well as open sores, which subsequently become vulnerable to infections by bacteria.

The burrows in the skin that host the scabies mites appear to be somewhat raised and have a greyish-white thread-like structure on the skin. The eggs are laid by female mites at the ends of borrows that are blocked.

In the case of Norwegian scabies, the skin is covered with thick crusts. In fact, these patches also develop on the palms, soles of feet, ears and buttocks. Sometimes the nail beds are also infested with scabies mites and they also appear thickened and crusted. A large number of scabies mites are usually associated with such conditions, but it does not cause as severe itching as those due to infestations on other body areas. It is worth mentioning here that it is not necessary that crusted scabies will always cause itchy rashes. On the other hand, they may result in other symptoms like formation of extensive crusts on the skin surface that are greyish, thick and also fall apart easily when they are touched.

It has been seen that people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to crusted scabies. Such people include those with HIV or AIDS, those using steroids or other therapies like specific medications for treating rheumatoid arthritis or those who are going through chemotherapy. When the immune system is weak, it is easier for scabies mites to overpower them and multiply more rapidly. Crusted scabies and normal scabies spread in the same way.

Treatment and prevention

The best way to prevent developing scabies is to be careful and stay away from people who have already been infested with scabies mites. It is essential to avoid any direct contact with such people. At the same time, you should be careful while using public areas like community bathrooms, swimming pools and tanning booths. You can only use them if you are certain that these places have been sterilized properly.

Scabies can be treated effectively by applying permethrin lotion or cream only once on the affected skin area. However, it is advised that patients should apply this cream or lotion for a second time a week later with a view to ensure that all scabies mites have been eliminated. In addition, it is essential to clean the entire body with tepid water (never use warm water) and subsequently cover it with effective cream. At the same time, it is important to wear clean clothes throughout the treatment period, which may continue for 8 hours to 14 hours. Change your clothes again after rinsing of the cream.

As scabies is a highly infectious disease, sufferers should ensure that they wash all clothes that he/ she has worn three days prior to the treatment as well as all towels and bed sheets used during the period in hot soapy water. Subsequently, the clothes, towels and bed sheets should be placed in the dryer and put on hot cycle in order to destroy the remaining scabies mites as well as their eggs.

If your child has been infested by scabies mites, make sure that you consult your physician or pharmacist for specific instructions on the amount of cream that needs to be applied on them. Our skin can absorb even a very small amount of permethrin cream or lotion and the medicine may be found in breast milk. Therefore, pregnant women as well as nursing mothers should ask their physician for alternative treatments.

It is worth noting that the itching caused by scabies will not go away immediately after treatment, but it may continue for many weeks. Nevertheless, the itching can be alleviated by using mild soaps, antihistamines or prescribed corticosteroid ointments. In case, you still experience itching sensation after a month of the treatment, you need to check with your physician. This is important as your physician may recommend re-treatment.

If any individual has been infested by scabies mites, it will be an excellent idea for all people living in the same house or under the same roof to undergo the treatment simultaneously. This is important even if someone has not been infested by the mites, as the treatment will reduce the risks of re-infection with Sarcoptes scabiei. At the same time, it will be helpful if you sterilize your home thoroughly and wash all clothing as well as linen in sizzling water. Subsequently, the clothes and linen should be dried on a hot cycle. Make sure that you also place all the clothes, linens, household items and even toys in a plastic bag and seal it. Allow them to remain in that condition for about a week. When you open the plastic bag, all pests would have died and the clothes would be safe for wearing again.