Scabies is a common, extremely itchy rash caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These parasites eat the outer (epidermal) layer of the skin cannot be seen with the naked eye, their tiny burrows might be visible. When a person is initially infected it can take up to 8 weeks before the itching begins as it takes a while for the body to develop an allergic reaction to the mite.
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What causes Scabies?
Scabies mites tend to favour warm and moist areas such as the external genitalia, beneath the breasts, between the buttock folds, webs of the fingers or toes and under the fingernails. However, they can be found residing anywhere on the body, though the face and neck are usually not affected.
What are the symptoms/types of Scabies?
Multiple tiny red insect bites in a row are the typical finding with scabies. The burrows created by the mites appear as small curves or lines. Due to the excessive itchiness, scaly inflamed scratch marks may also become visible, and scabies infestation often resembles severe eczema (see image).
Intense itching, particularly at night and in warm environments, is the main complaint with this condition. There are generally no serious health consequences of uncomplicated scabies, but it is important to seek treatment quickly, otherwise symptoms can persist for months or even years.
A rare, highly-contagious, form of the disease referred to as crusted or Norwegian scabies, which involves extensive areas of the body being infested with a large number of mites can affect those whose natural defence mechanisms are weakened such as people who have cancer or AIDS.
How can it be prevented?
People become infected with the mites either via prolonged direct skin contact with someone already infected or, less commonly, by using infested bath towels, clothing or bedding. Pets do not carry the mites that infect humans – the spread from animals to humans does not occur.
It is important to avoid close bodily contact or the sharing of items that have been used by others during treatment to prevent re-infection. We also advise all close contacts (household members and sexual contacts) to undergo treatment, even if they have no symptoms, to prevent the condition recurring.
What Scabies treatments are available?
The most well-established treatment for scabies involves the application of a medicated cream containing permethrin, which is highly effective at killing the mites. However, if this fails to work another lotion containing a medication known as malathion can be used.
Due to the fact that the symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction it can take some time after the eradication of the mite before the itching completely disappears.
For the more severe, crusted form of scabies a tablet-medication called Ivermectin is given.
For further information please visit the NHS website and read the British Association of Dermatology Patient leaflet.
Scabies treatments we offer include:
Medicated cream containing permethrin
Lotion containing malathion
Oral tablet medication Ivermectin