Scabies is a skin condition caused by microscopic burrowing mites, scientifically known as Sarcoptes Scabiei. The infection makes the affected area extremely scratchy and is contagious.
About Sarcoptes Scabiei:
They are tiny eight-legged parasites, just about 1/3-mm in size. They are also known as burrow mites, as they live and breed under the human skin. These mites can stay alive for almost 2 months on human skin. It is the allergic reactions of the body to these mites and their eggs that cause rashes and itchiness of the skin.
Causes of Scabies:
Direct contact or prolonged contact with the infected skin is the main cause of infection.
- Holding hands of an infected person for a long time
- Sexual contact
- Sharing an infected person’s clothes/towels/bedspreads, though rare, can still lead to infection
People who are most prone to infection are:
- Children at schools or day care
- Parents of an infected child
- Inhabitants at nursing facilities/long-term care facilities
Scabies is generally self-diagnosed and does not usually require any medical tests to determine the condition.
- Itchiness – It is the main symptom of the infection. The infected area feels itchy and tends to aggravate in the night or after a hot wash.
- Rashes – They are generally followed by itching. They look like red lumps similar to pimples/blisters. These rashes cause dryness and skin feels scaly in texture.
- Sores – The continued itching of the skin leads to sores. This is known to cause secondary infections like impetigo.
- Thickening of the Outer layer – Norwegian Scabies is an extreme form of scabies, indicating the severity of the infection. This in simple terms means the mites have multiplied in thousands and are aggravating the symptoms that are already present.
The infection is completely curable. Scabies takes close to 6 weeks for an infected person to develop any symptoms. Hence, it is always better to see a doctor than to go by home remedies or taking advice from pharmacists.
The common treatment for the infection is Oral medication or Topical Scabicidal medication (medication that destroys organisms that cause infection like Scabies).
Medications commonly prescribed during the treatment of Scabies are:
- Permethrin/Crotamiton Lotion – gives a soothing feel and relief from itching.
- Hydrocrotisone – steroid of a mild form that eases itching and helps reduce inflammations.
- Chlorphenamine – helps to sleep better.
Medications can vary from one patient to another, depending on age, severity of the infection, allergy towards a particular drug, etc. Hence, note, the above listed medications should not be taken without prescription by a certified physician.
Sometimes an infected person may notice that his/her itching continues to remain for weeks, after starting the treatment. In such cases, the patient is advised to be attentive to the appearance of any new bumps or rashes. It indicates that a second phase of treatment is necessary.
Thus, a person infected by scabies should follow his/her medication regime diligently and pay attention to personal hygiene to prevent them from getting re-infested.