Scabies – A Contagious Disorder
Most people do not know about scabies, even though it is extremely common. They often ask, what is scabies? Scabies, an itchy skin disorder, is caused by the infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. These tiny mites can live and reproduce in the skin for several months. They can cause an itchy, pimple-like rash on the skin.
Scabies mites are microscopic. They are four-legged, cream-colored parasites with bristles and spine on their back. The female mite is bigger than the male version. The female mites burrow into the skin and lay eggs, around 40-50 in their lifetime. The eggs hatch into larvae in 3-4 days and grow into adults in 10-15 days. The average number of mites on an infected person is about 12.
How Common Is Scabies?
Scabies is a common condition with approximately 300 million cases each year. According to research and studies, it has been seen that scabies is more common in urban areas, in women and children, in winters, and in crowded areas like refugee camps. It is because scabies is a deadly allergy easily passed on from one person to another through direct skin contact. It can also be carried through infected clothing or bedding.
What Are Its Symptoms?
It usually takes up to six weeks for the symptoms to appear after the first infestation. People with a history of scabies show the symptoms more quickly as compared to those who have no record of it.
The only symptom of scabies is a rash and excessive itching that gets worse at night. The rash may become infected with continuous scratching, which is then cured by antibiotics.
In babies, the most commonly affected areas are the head, face, neck, hands and soles of the feet. In older children and adults, rashes appear on the wrist, elbow, armpit, waist and the area between the fingers.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A doctor performs a simple physical exam of the infected area to confirm the presence of scabies. Sometimes, for further confirmation, the doctor may remove a mite from the skin with the help of a needle. At other times, a small portion of the skin is scraped off to get a tissue sample, which is then scrutinized under a microscope to verify the presence of scabies or its eggs.
How Is It Treated?
Scabies is curable. Scabies treatment involves applying prescribed ointments and lotions to the affected areas, which kill the mites. Usually, it is prescribed to use the creams at night when the mites are the most active and washed off in the morning. It is a complete skin treatment from top to bottom.
A daily hot bath and scrubbing with soap do not help. Proper scabies treatment is a must.
Be careful and treat scabies as soon as you get them or else it worsens into crusted scabies or Norwegian scabies. It is a severe and extremely contagious form of scabies, which results in excessive scaling and flaking of the skin and occurs in people with a weak immune system.