Scabies- Symptoms, Prevention and Treatments

How many of you know about scabies? The name sounds interesting, but the harms that it brings are not pleasant at all. It is a skin condition, which becomes almost invisible to a severe stage. It is an extremely itchy condition which appears as rashes on the skin.

It is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei, which is a mite, an eight-legged microscopic mite. It is highly contagious which transmits to person to person in no time. Not just the children but adults are also much likely to get affected by it.

Although scabies is one of the most common dermatological conditions yet people are not aware of it. By any chance, if scabies catches anyone around you, beware because all close contacts can be affected too.

How do you catch scabies?

Scabies is the disease of the skin, which makes it extraordinarily itchy and bumpy with red marks. Once you start scratching it, these bumps become blisters. It is not a rare disease but prevalent all around the world.

There are millions of scabies patients each year, and the majority of them don’t even know anything about it. Scabies is highly contagious which means it spreads from person to person.

If there is someone around you who is infected with scabies, even a hand contact will get you the same. It spreads rapidly, like anything. If you touch an infected person, bedding, wear clothes or also use furniture contaminated with scabies, you will get scabies too.

There are so many cases of scabies reported each year. The epidemiological report of scabies shows that more than 300 million people get infected with it each year. From this number, those, which are the residents of USA, are more than 1 million.

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Common signs and symptoms of Scabies

How scabies will affect you depends on your previous experience with scabies. The scabies mites act differently if they have a past attack on you. If there is no old attack of scabies, the chances are that it will take quite some time for it to show effects.

The standard time, which it takes, will be in-between two to six weeks. However, if the person’s immune system is responsive, it may not make that much time. Some common signs of scabies that you will experience can be any of the following.

Continuous itching is the foremost thing to note. It gets worse as the day shifts into the night. In the dark, this itch is so intense that it may leave you sleepless all night.

Red rashes on the skin are another thing, which is common to see. The red outbreaks indicate that the mites burrow the way into your skin. It looks likes stings and beehives. If the person starts to itch it, they may end up on being blisters.

The skin scratch also forms sores, which show the primary infested areas. They become more apparent when a secondary infection hits the skin. This disease is caused by Staphylococcus aureus.

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Severe form of Scabies- Norwegian Scabies

One of the most severe forms of scabies is to have skin crusts. This type of scabies is called Norwegian scabies. It occurs when thousands of scabies mites lay eggs on the skin. It spreads more rapidly than normal scabies condition.

These mites feed on the crust, and the person may not even notice an abnormality till one week or more. The result is to have thick, dark and gray tones skin crusts. It needs an immediate consultation with a doctor.

What are the target areas of Scabies?

Scabies is most likely to hit you on some particular body sites. It is same for adults and children. These scabies infection sites are as follows.

  • Around the fingernails on hands
  • In between fingers on hands
  • Waist
  • Armpits
  • Palms of hands
  • Inner parts, i.e., inner wrist, inner elbow, and inner knees.
  • Feet Soles
  • Genital organs
  • Breasts
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Scalp
  • Face

An infected person may have these symptoms altogether or a few of them. How often would you experience these symptoms depends on your immunity.

How does Scabies look like?

People who are new to scabies may be concerned on what does it look like. Apparently, it will be difficult for them to characterize scabies accurately, knowing that the timely diagnosis is required to get rid of scabies.

It appears like a usual rash. It is more subtle on thoracic region but harsh on limbs. The outbreak becomes more red and itchy in the night. It usually goes away in the daytime.

On hands and feet, it may appear like a small pimple. If you continue to itch it for long, there are chances for it to turn into a blister. On inner body parts, it looks like dry, scaly skin. It appears as the skin is shedding itself after becoming dry.

A severe case of scabies will also have lesions on the body. It needs so many days of scratching to make sores into wounds. At this time, it is more likely to be infected by staph infection too.

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What are the common causes of Scabies?

After knowing what is scabies and how does it look, the next thing that comes to everyone’s mind is that, why does it hit you? Knowing the typical reasons of scabies is essential to understand the process of infection and healing.

Scabies is caused by a mite, which has the scientific name of Sarcoptes scabiei. Commonly it is also known as the human itch mite. It burrows the skin and lays eggs inside the channel, which it creates. These eggs hatched and that’s how the infection spreads.

If any other person contacts the infected person at this stage, the mites get transferred to that person, and the same process is repeated. Hence he gets the scabies infection too.

You will be surprised to know that humans are not the only to get hit by mites. If you are a pet owner, you may know that dogs and cats also get mites sometimes. However, it is not the same mite, which hits humans in scabies.

Scabies spread like anything. It’s not that you need to have a few contacts to get it, only one-time physical connection or a simple handshaking is also sufficient for it to hit you.

People that are at a higher risk of getting scabies are,

  • Children that go to school
  • Children that attend daycare centers
  • Parents of such children
  • Sexually active adults
  • People living in hostels
  • People are living in shared apartments.
  • People that are in professional sports teams
  • Nursing home residents
  • Immunocompromised persons

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How to diagnose Scabies?

One common problem with scabies and almost all skin infections are that they are very confusing to diagnose. The signs of scabies, eczema, and dermatitis may all appear the same.

All of these cause extreme itching, dryness, scales and red rashes on the skin. Anyone who is at the earliest stage may get confused on what is he going through. In this regard, only a doctor can tell better about which infection has attacked your skin through specialized skin tests.

The initial diagnosis is based on the direct examination of the skin or the study of surface scraping under a microscope, which shows mites.

Treatment for scabies that you can use

The most challenging problem with treating scabies is that it is highly contagious. By any chance, if anyone in your house or close contact has it, all people around have a high risk of getting scabies too.

To treat scabies, topical medication is used. As it is the skin related disease, you don’t need any capsules or tablets. Just applying a topical cream will be helpful too.

Your doctor may prescribe you with 5% permethrin cream, crotamiton cream, or lindane lotion. All of these are best-used ointments for scabies. If any of these won’t work, 25% benzyl benzoate lotion or 10% sulfur ointment can also be used.

All these ointments are applied to the skin at night and washed off in the morning. Sometimes an oral medicine can also be given to people, which has a weaker immune system.

The immunocompromised patients that get crusted scabies are more likely to be given with an oral medicine, i.e., ivermectin. However, it cannot be given to pregnant women and children.

Other medicines such as anti-itching lotions or antibiotics can also be prescribed if there is a secondary infection.

This treatment takes time. If the doctor diagnoses scabies on time, the prescribed medication will not take much time. However, it may take at least four weeks to show visible effects.

For severe cases, there is more time required to heal the infection completely.

What can you do to prevent Scabies?

Scabies, though terrible its manifestation is, still able to get prevented if you follow the necessary steps.

  • Take care of your hygiene. Make a habit of cleaning your body more often.
  • Wear only clean and dry clothes. Especially towels, bed sheets and comforters. When you plan to wash these, use hot water and heat to dry them.
  • If you are already suffering from scabies, make a habit of frequently changing clothes, changing all the sheets. Those items, which you cant, wash, pack them in plastic sealed envelopes so that mites may die to starve.
  • Clean your house. Take special care while cleaning carpets, rugs and other stuff. Use an insecticide if required.
  • Do get in contact with a person to whom you know or doubt of having scabies. It’s not just the physical contact but using the everyday things, i.e., furniture, clothes, etc. can also get you scabies.

If you doubt of having signs of scabies, talk to your doctor at first preference and get it diagnosed correctly.

Sources

  • https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/gen_info/faqs.html
  • https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/scabies
  • https://patient.info/health/scabies-leaflet
  • https://beta.nhs.uk/conditions/scabies/