What is Scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition caused by infestation with the tiny mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It is very common, affecting people of all ages, genders, and social backgrounds. Symptoms include intense itching, which is usually worse at night, and a skin rash made up of tiny red bumps and blisters. The mites that cause scabies can live for up to 2-3 months on the skin of an infected person. Treating scabies usually involves taking medication to kill the mites, as well as cleaning items that the person with scabies has had close contact with.

Signs & Symptoms of Scabies

Common signs and symptoms of scabies infection include:

  • Itching that is usually intense and worsens over time, especially at night.
  • A skin rash made up of tiny red bumps and blisters.
  • Burrows, which look like thin, gray-white or skin-colored lines, usually found on the fingers, wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, and buttocks.

Causes of Scabies

Scabies is caused by infestation with the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites are very small and usually can't be seen with the naked eye, but they can be seen with a microscope. The mites are spread through direct skin contact with an infected person, or by contact with items such as clothing or bedding that has been contaminated with the mite.

Complications of Scabies

If not treated promptly, scabies can lead to further complications, such as:

  • Secondary bacterial infections, which can become more serious if not treated properly.
  • Allergic reactions to scabies mites or their eggs.
  • Scratching of skin, which can lead to open sores and possible scarring.

Treatment of Scabies

The most common treatments for scabies are topical medications, such as creams, lotions, and ointments that contain an insecticide called permethrin. These medications work by killing the mites that cause scabies. It may take two or more treatments to completely eliminate the parasites. In some cases, oral medications may be used, if the topical treatments are not effective.