Scabies: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Scabies are an infestation by the mites called Sarcoptes scabiei.
It is not a skin infection rather a skin infection where these mites set in outer layer of skin.
They furthermore, lay eggs in the skin causing rash and itching.
Types of Scabies
It affects the hands and wrists but does not occur on the scalp and face.
Typical Scabies is one of the most common scabies infestation which leads to an itchy rash.
This is a different kind of infestation and a more serious one.
Crusted scabies, also known as Norwegian scabies is highly contagious and is in the form of thick crusts that appear gray, and crumble when slightly touched. These crusts have many eggs and mites.
Norweigan scabies mostly affect people with weak immunity. If you have AIDS, have undergone chemotherapy or take steroids for rheumatoid arthritis you are more susceptible to developing crusted scabies.
Since they can overpower weak immune systems, they easily multiply fastly.
They appear in certain areas like typical scabies.
These areas are the armpits, groin and genital areas, but they do not appear as rashes but as itchy raised lumps.
Is Scabies different from bed bugs?
Yes! While both feed on the human body, one infests itself in the skin and the other feeds from outside.
Scabies cannot be seen from the naked eye but you can see bed bugs.
Bed bugs feed on human body mostly at night and then hide away in your mattress.
Bed bugs bite on the surface and you will see a red blotch rash but it is limited to that place.
Whereas scabies are more widely spread out bumps.
Bed bugs are hard to eliminate and you will require professional extermination to get rid of them entirely.
However, Scabies mites will die if they are isolated from their host and do not come in contact with another human skin.
Both scabies and bed bugs are treatable but treatment also prevails to people around you.
Causes of Scabies
Scabies is contagious and can quickly spread to people around you through direct skin contact.
It is not sexually transmitted but physical contact is enough to spread it.
Infested clothes, furniture and bedding can also spread scabies from one person to another.
When these eggs hatch and become larvae they come up the skin surface and can then spread to other skin parts or even to other people.
The itchiness and rashes are due to the mite’s eggs and their waste.
Scabies can spread faster in places where people live together like nursing homes and family homes.
Different scabies mites affect animals and humans. These mites prefer living on their specific host rather than the other.
So humans can only get a mild infection from an animal scabies mite but a full infestation is only possible from a human scabies mite.
Symptoms of Scabies
Scabies leads to itching that gets especially worse at night.
Moreover, there are bumps, lumps and rashes on the skin as well.
You will also see tiny blisters on the folds of your skin. These are thin burrow tracks made by the mite.
They can appear as bumps or blisters and are irregular.
Scabies can affect any part of your body.
For adults it appears:
- in the armpits
- on the wrist
- between fingers
- on the waist and feet soles
- around male genital area
- in elbows
- around breasts
Children usually get infested on the scalp, feet soles or on the palm. The immunocompromised may get infected on the head, neck and face as well.
You may see your signs and symptoms after six weeks of being infected. However, you can spread scabies even before you have any symptoms.
Also, you will develop symptoms earlier if you have had scabies before.
Avoid scratching the bumps and rash because they can become sores and can only be then treated by antibiotics.
If you notice these symptoms, see your doctor.
Over the counter medicines can only help you be reducing itching but not eliminating scabies.
A doctor will identify the real cause of your symptoms to ensure it is scabies and then treat you properly because scabies can be confused with eczema and dermatitis.
More on this in the next section.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor will examine your skin for burrows.
If found, small scrapping is taken to be examined under a microscope to see for mites and eggs.
Afterward, the ink is wiped off and only the burrows will still have visible ink.
If burrows are present, so are scabies mites. You will now have to proceed with treatment.
Scabies is treated by lotions, ointments, and oral medicines prescribed by your doctor.
The purpose is to eliminate the infestation.
You will most likely be told to apply the creams all over your body starting from the neck. Sometimes, you may also be advised to apply it twice to get rid of any burrows and bumps or any new rashes.
You will have to leave the ointment for up to 10 hours so it is better to apply it at night and wash it in the morning.
Scabies treatment is advised to all family members due to its rapid spread.
Your doctor may prescribe:
- Ivermectin (Stromectol) is given to patients with crusted scabies. This oral medication is prescribed to people with weak immune systems. Pregnant and nursing women and children weighing under 33 kilograms aren’t recommended to take it. You will be prescribed this when creams and lotions fail to work on you.
- Permethrin cream consists of chemicals that effectively kill mites and eggs. It is considered safe to use for everyone including children over 2 months.
Additionally, you may be prescribed, benzyl benzoate lotion or sulfur ointment.
Your itching may still last several weeks after these medications have successfully killed the mites.
For that you can get antihistamines and steroid creams to reduce your itching, and antibiotics to cure any infection caused by scratching.
Scabies mites are usually killed by four weeks. If your symptoms(except for itching) still persist, consult your doctor for stronger medication.
To relieve your symptoms, you may also try some home remedies.
Put a damp piece of cloth on your sores to relieve yourself of itching.
Or soak your skin in cold water to soothe those parts.
Also, applying any soothing lotion can reduce itchiness.
You may also experience burning sensation, redness, numbness and swelling as a side effect of scratching the part with scabies.
You can try tea tree oil that helps relieves itching and eliminates rashes.
Capsaicin cream can heal the pain caused by scabies mites by making the skin desensitized. This helps reduce the itching as it is no longer felt.
Soaps that have neem tree extracts like the bark, leaves and seeds can are said to work on scabies and effectively kill the mites.
Aloe vera gel is widely known for its soothing properties. It can also work well in easing the burning sensations caused by scabies. But surprisingly pure aloe vera may also work on curing you of scabies.
Essential oils like lavender have relieving properties but clove oil can kill bugs, hence it can help get rid of the mites.
These natural remedies are pretty effective against scabies however, they should be used after consulting your doctor.
Your doctor may prescribe medications first, so go along with what they suggest.
However, immunocompromised people are susceptible to getting a severe form of scabies (crusty scabies).
Scabies is not directly related to hygiene.
So what can you do?
However, you can try to be more careful once you have contracted scabies and protect others in your proximity from getting it.
Wash all your clothes, blankets, towel, bedding in warm water and soap before starting your treatment. Do not prolong cleaning them and do it with a three days gap.
Remember to dry them in high heat.
Mites essentially require a host to survive.
They feed on the host and if they do not come in contact with the human host, they will die.
Leave your infected clothes in a place away from you sealed for instance in your garage. Leave them there for some weeks.
The mites will die in a few days when they are not feeding on their host.
This way you can get rid of the mites in your linen and clothes so that they do not affect you and your family members again.
Scabies are treatable provided everyone who you are in close contact gets the treatment too.
It is best to eliminate it as soon as possible so that it does not spread rapidly.