Scabies is an infestation of the skin. It is caused by a tiny mite.

  • Causes

    An infestation results when the female mite burrows into the skin and lays its eggs. The scabies mite does not suck blood. It does not transmit any disease other than scabies between people.

    Scabies is highly contagious. Most often, it is passed from person to person through:

    • Close and generally prolonged physical contact
    • Sexual contact

    Scabies can also spread from person to person by sharing:

    • Clothing
    • Towels
    • Bedding

    Scabies can occasionally also be acquired from certain mammals. It is most common from dogs with sarcoptic mange. Scabies from dogs differs somewhat from human scabies. It rarely passes from person to person.

  • Definition

    Scabies is an infestation of the skin. It is caused by a tiny mite.

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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A
    physical exam
    will be done. While scabies can often be diagnosed based on these steps, the doctor may scrape some skin off. The sample is examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Prevention

    To reduce your risk of getting scabies, avoid close physical contact with anyone who has either scabies or an undiagnosed itchy rash and do not share their:

    • Clothing
    • Towels
    • Bedding

    To prevent the spread of scabies from one person to another:

    • If you share living quarters with an infected person and/or have close physical contact, consider treatment even if you do not have symptoms.
    • Wash or dry clean all clothing, bedding, and towels that may have become infested. Set washing or drying temperatures to 140ºF (60ºC) or more. Mites may live for at least 2-5 days after they leave a human body. They are probably infectious during some or all of that time, especially in room temperatures of 68ºF (20ºC) and above. Some experts suggest that lis that cannot easily be cleaned be “quarantined.” This can be done by placing them in a plastic bag for at least three days.
    • Try to avoid contact for several days with hard-to-clean or non-cleanable lis, like upholstered furniture. Talk to your doctor about ways to deal with household lis that cannot be cleaned.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of scabies include:

    • Age: less than 15 years, or older than 65 years
    • Sexual contact with new or multiple partners
    • Close, physical contact with a person who has scabies
    • Living in close quarters with others (such as in a nursing home or military barracks)
    • A weakened immune system
    • Close contact with animal scabies

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of scabies include:

    • Intense itching, usually worse at night
    • Small red bumps, pimples, or lines on the skin

    In more severe cases, the infested area may:

    • Appear crusty
    • Become infected and discharge pus

    Scabies rarely affects the face or head. While any other body area, or even the whole body, may be involved, areas most often affected include:

    • Hands, especially between the fingers
    • Wrists and elbows
    • Feet
    • Genitals and pubic area (especially in men)
    • Buttocks
    • Around the nipples (especially in women)
    • Waistline
    • Bellybutton and lower abdomen
    • Areas where clothing is tight
    • Under rings, watches, or jewelry

  • Treatment

    It is essential to remove scabies from the living environment to avoid re-infestation after treatment. All bedding and clothing must be thoroughly laundered. Other members of the household or institution should be treated.