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Scabies is a highly contagious, itchy skin disease that is caused by a microscopic mite known as Sarcoptes scabei var. hominis. Scabies is known to be a global issue that affects over 200 million individuals at some point. Moreover, in many tropical countries with poor resources, scabies has become an epidemic with a prevalence rate between 5-10% in children .
These mites burrow under the upper layer of your skin to lay eggs and expand, and this causes red bumps and severe itching. It spreads quickly when people are in close contact, in crowded areas or living in the same house. Furthermore, you can get it indirectly from shared clothing, bedding, towels, etc.
|Symptoms||Severe itching, skin rash, blisters, etc.|
|Complications||Skin sores, chronic kidney disorders and inflammation, heart diseases, etc.|
|Causes||Adult female hominis mites enter the upper surface of the skin, live and lay eggs there, causing an allergic reaction, skin rashes and blisters on the skin.|
|Onset||2-6 weeks after being infected for the first time; 1-4 days after exposure for people with a scabies history.|
|Diagnosis||Burrow scraping and lab testing to look for evidence of mites and infection.|
|Prevention||Avoid skin-to-skin touch, wash contaminated items with hot water after recovery, get tested along with family members, etc.|
|Medication||Permethrin cream, spinosad liquid, lindane lotion, benzyl benzoate lotion|
Here’s a detailed overview of scabies, its symptoms, causes, types, complications and treatment.
The most common symptom of scabies is itching and a skin rash. You may experience severe itchiness, particularly at night, followed by rashes, blisters, or nodules, depending on the type of scabies you have. Pimple-like blisters are called popular rashes, and itchy rashes are called pruritic rash .
The most affected body parts where the mites infest are:
Apart from these areas, the scalp, face, palms, neck, and soles are also affected in young children.
The causal factor of scabies is infestation by the adult female human itch mite known as Sarcoptes scabies . It burrows into the surface of human skin to live and multiply, laying millions of eggs.
The itching in the skin is believed to be a reaction caused by the immune system of the body. It fights against the mites, its saliva and faeces and the eggs they lay.
To understand why scabies is such a common condition, you must also understand its transmission processes. They are as follows:
Scabies can be of five different types. They are as follows:
The most commonly found type of scabies is the classic one. Here, a population of about 10-15 mites enter the host’s skin and live there. Classic scabies can be transmitted if you are in skin-to-skin contact with an infested human for a mere 10 minutes . The parasites can also spread through infested belongings like bed sheets and clothes. Moreover, classic scabies can be seen localised in specific regions such as palms, nails and toes.
This type of scabies is most prevalent in individuals with a weak or faulty immune system. As the name indicates, the parasites form crusts covering a significant skin area. Unlike common scabies, the Norwegian type harbours millions of mites instead of just 10-15.
The nodular type of scabies is a variation of the classic form. It is more prevalent in children and also in the genitalia of adult males . Here, affected individuals develop brown-red nodules on the skin surface, which are highly sensitive and itchy. Moreover, the nodules may last long after the parasites are gone due to the remains of their body parts or antigens.
Bullous scabies is a rare type of disease and is often mistaken for bullous pemphigoid, another condition with skin blisters. In this condition, the mite burrows deep under human skin making skin blisters.
Scalp scabies is the kind that infects your scalp. It is more prevalent in children, where the female mites make tunnels like burrows in the scalp to lag eggs. It can be highly itchy and irritable, mimicking dermatitis such as atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis .
Once diagnosed with scabies, you must visit a doctor immediately at the nearest clinic or emergency care. Scabies is a severe condition, and it should not be left untreated even for a single day .
To continue with the treatment effectively, you must visit a certified dermatologist, who will examine your condition and create a treatment plan as per your condition.
You must strictly adhere to this plan and do the needful on your end to ensure that you are completely cured. It is also important to make a visit after the course of medication to ensure that there are no more mites remaining that can spread further .
The typical appearance and spread of the rash, as well as the presence and number of burrows in the skin, are used to diagnose an infestation of scabies .
Clinical evaluation of scabies is done in the following process:
In this method, clinical experts will look for physical evidence of burrows in the affected region where you experience severe itchiness. They will take up samples from both the affected individuals and their household contacts.
Confirmation is given once they find evidence of the mites, their eggs, or faeces after a microscopic examination of the burrow findings.
However, in many cases, evidence of mites may not be found. This does not eliminate the chances of scabies.
Therefore, to carry out a more practical test, experts must collect the scraping by placing glycerol, immersion oil or mineral oil over the papule or burrow. This prevents the mites or their parts from dispersing while scraping.
Next, these findings are uncovered using a scalpel and placed on a slide to test under the microscope.
In the lab, dermoscopy is used for imaging and magnification of the scrapings to identify scabies infection.
The prognosis for scabies is good when it is treated effectively, not only in the patients but also in their close contacts and family members.
However, if left untreated, scabies can spread quickly and massively among multiple people at a time, causing an outbreak within a population.
Scabies treatment is mainly carried out using anti-parasitics. It includes treating the infected as well as people who came in close contact with them. It also consists of the affected person’s family members who do not show any symptoms. This is the only way you can prevent an outbreak of the disease or redevelop it after weeks .
Individuals who require treatment include:
Medicine can cure your condition effectively if applied as per your doctor’s prescription, and it can be used on areas of the skin from the neck down.
Generally, the medicines prescribed include the following:
Note that these medications may not work if scabies has affected a wider area of the body or for crusted conditions. They require much stronger management. In such a case, the doctor may prescribe drugs like ivermectin. These work for children, patients with HIV infection and also people who are at high risk of catching it, especially in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
Some other medications that doctors may prescribe depending on different signs and symptoms include:
Scabies can be prevented by being aware of the people you are in contact with. Moreover, if you are infected, you can stop an outbreak through quick treatment and isolation.
Here are some of the scabies prevention steps you can follow:
With effective treatment and care, scabies can be totally cured. Otherwise, without treatment, you can get skin sores led by severe and intense itching in the affected areas. Moreover, these sores often get infected with bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or beta-hemolytic streptococci on the skin.
If left untreated, the infection produced by the bacteria can also cause kidney inflammation known as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis along with several heart diseases and septicaemia.
Scabies treatment expenses include medicine and diagnosis costs and are not very high in India. Depending on the doctor and the healthcare centre you choose, the average cost in India for scabies treatment ranges between Rs.200 and Rs.1,000. However, the price may vary based on several factors.
Being infected with scabies can be highly irritable and painful. It disrupts your regular routine, alienating you from your close ones till recovery. Therefore, the sooner you are diagnosed and treated, the better.
Prolonged infection can cause complications such as heart and kidney diseases and sepsis. In cases like that, the burden of treatment and expenses will be high. Get a comprehensive health insurance policy with Navi Health Insurance to reduce your medical bills to 0. Enjoy cashless treatments at 10,000+ network hospitals, unlimited online consultations, annual check-ups and other perks for premiums starting at just Rs.234. Get a quote now!
Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, consult your doctor to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation
Yes, you can get scabies more than once if your condition was not fully cured in the first instance and you got re-infected from close contact. In addition, you can also catch it from another affected individual.
Both scabies and eczema are skin conditions with severe itching and rashes. However, scabies is caused due to the Sarcoptes scabiei parasite that burrows into the skin and multiples. It is also highly contagious. In contrast, eczema is a seasonal rash that is caused by unknown reasons and is not infectious.
No, the human immune system cannot fight the hominis parasite on its own. Therefore, once diagnosed, you must seek treatment immediately, along with people who live in the same house and are in close contact.
No, you cannot get scabies from your pets, as humans are the only host of the hominis mite. Animals can get infected by a different type of mite, which causes "mange".
Typically, the scabies mites die in 2 to 3 days when outside the human skin. Therefore, it would be best not to use these items for a few days. Moreover, before subsequent use, the linens and clothes must be washed well in the machine using hot water, after which you can dry them for final decontamination.
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