Written by ASIAMED CONNECT & APOLLO HOSPITALS
Scabies is an itchy, highly contagious skin condition caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Scabies infestation occurs worldwide and is very common. It has been estimated that worldwide, about 300 million cases occur each year. Scabies has been reported to occur in epidemics in nursing homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other institutions
Mites are small eight-legged parasites (in contrast to insects, which have six legs). They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter long, and burrow into the skin to produce intense itching, which tends to be worse at night. The mites that infest humans are female and are 0.3 mm-0.4 mm long; the males are about half this size. Scabies mites can be seen with a magnifying glass or microscope. The scabies mites crawl but are unable to fly or jump.
It is seen frequently in the homeless population but occurs episodically in other populations of all socioeconomic groups as well.
Mode of infection
Scabies can be passed on by close skin to skin contact with another person. Scabies burrow down into the skin to lay their eggs. Scabies mites are very sensitive to their environment. They can only live off of a host body for 24-36 hours under most conditions. Children can pass them on because of the close contact they have when they play together.
In adults though it's often through sexual contact.
Once they are in a household, they can easily spread to other members of the house.
Scabies are not passed on by pets or other animals.
The first sign may be a very itchy skin, especially after becoming warm in bed. This may be 3 or 4 weeks after contact. If you have had scabies before, the itching might start only a few days after contact (the itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites). It is so itchy that it is almost impossible not to scratch.
After a few days, small blisters and scratch marks may be seen.
Sometimes the small burrows can be seen, but often they are hidden by the scratch marks.
A rash and itching can develop on parts of the skin which are away from where the mites are.
Scratching can spread the mite and eggs to other parts of the body.
In adults the mites are usually on the hands or fingers, wrists, feet, ankles, waist, genital areas and breasts. On children under 2 years old they may also be on the scalp.
Curing scabies is easy. Your doctor will prescribe you scabicide drugs that eliminate the scabies mite. There are no approved over-the-counter preparations that have been proved to be effective in eliminating scabies. You will need to see your doctor to have scabicide drugs prescribed and follow the regimen closely.
These little mites can be anywhere on the body. This means that a condom used during sex won't protect you. The best prevention is to make sure you don't pass them on to others by:
getting them treated quickly
making sure the treatment is thorough - follow the manufacturer's instructions
making sure that you follow your doctor's instructions fully
not having close physical contact with others until given the all clear