You’ve been itchy for days and now a rash has formed along your skin. Could it actually be scabies?
Caused by small mites, scabies is a common skin condition that has nothing to do with your personal hygiene. To learn if you may be affected, find out more about scabies symptoms, causes, and risk factors.
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What Is Scabies?
Scabies is a skin condition that causes a severe rash, which includes itching and raised red bumps. It’s produced by “itch mites” (Sarcoptes scabiei) that burrow under the skin and lay eggs. In most adults, as few as six to 12 mites can cause scabies. After mites lay their eggs, it may take up to a month for a rash to develop.
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How Do You Get Scabies?
Scabies is often transmitted by coming in contact with an infected person, garment, or piece of bedding.
- Sexual transmission: Transmission is more likely to occur when partners spend the night together than following a brief sexual encounter.
- Nonsexual transmission: Transmission is possible from sleeping in infested bedding or wearing infested clothing, or even casual contact, such as shaking or holding hands.
- Scabies spreads quickly from person to person when someone brings it into a home. Contrary to popular belief, scabies is not caused by an individual’s personal hygiene.
Where Do Scabies Appear Most on the Body?
Scabies begins with itchiness within the general skin area of the infestation. You may notice a pimple-like rash, particularly around the wrists, fingers, armpits, waist, and groin.
The itching can be worse at night, causing you to lose sleep.
Scabies Treatment Options
If you believe you have scabies, it’s important to seek help from your doctor.
At your appointment, your doctor will take a sample of the irritated area and test it for the presence of mites. If you do indeed have scabies, your doctor will likely prescribe a topical medication. Several different types of creams and lotions are available, but oral medications may also be recommended:
- Permethrin cream: A topical cream containing chemicals that kill off scabies mites and their eggs
- Lindane lotion: A topical lotion
- Crotamiton: A cream or a lotion that is not recommended for children or pregnant and/or nursing women
- Ivermectin: An oral medication
If you are diagnosed with scabies, everyone in your household should be treated, even if they do not display symptoms. Bedding, clothing, and towels should be thoroughly washed in hot water and dried on a hot setting. Items that cannot be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for 72 hours to kill the mites.
The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and non-surgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is the most comprehensive dermatologic laser facility in the region. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.