What are Scabies?
Scabies are a skin condition characterized by severe itching and caused due to a small, tunneling mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite burrows in a particular area and it results in severe itching of that area. The desire to scratch the affected area is often intense in the night, when one is usually sleeping.
Scabies is an extremely contagious skin condition and tends to spread rapidly through touching and other forms of close physical contact. This is more prevalent in families, educational institutions, child care groups as well as nursing homes. Since scabies rash is so contagious, it is often the recommendation of the doctors to prescribe treatment for the entire family or play groups to destroy the mite.
However, scabies rash can be easily treated and does not pose any serious health problems. The topical medications readily eliminate the mites, but the symptoms of itching can often prevail for many weeks.
Some of the signs and symptoms of scabies rash are listed below:
Severe and intense itching of the areas affected by scabies rash, which tends to worsen in the night
- The affected areas are characterized by the presence of thin and irregular tunnel tracks which consist of tiny bumps or blisters on the surface of the skin
- Scabies generally tends to occur on the folds of the skin.
Scabies is not localized and can affect any part of the body. However in adults, some of common regions of the body that are affected by scabies rash include:
- In between the fingers
- Around the waist
- In the armpits
- Beside the interiors of wrists
- On the shoulder blades
- On the soles of the feet
- On the inner regions of elbow
- Areas around the breasts
- On the buttocks
- In the regions around the male genitals
- On the knees
In children, the areas affected by scabies rash may include:
- The face
- The palms of the hands
- The neck
- The scalp and
- The soles of the feet
Some of the complications of scabies rash are as follows:
- Scabies rash is itchy and extreme scratching of the affected areas, can lead to tearing of the skin resulting in secondary infection with bacteria such as the staph bacteria or occasionally by the strep bacteria. Secondary bacterial infections of the affected areas can lead to impetigo, a shallow infection of the skin.
- Scabies rash can lead to a more severe form of scabies known as crusted scabies. Crusted scabies generally occurs in the form of crusts and scales on the skin and can cover large parts of the body. It is difficult to treat and is extremely contagious.
Crusted scabies generally tends to affect high risk groups such as:
- Older individuals or adults in nursing homes
- Individuals with debilitating medical conditions that severely impair the immune system like people affected with HIV or persistent leukemia
- People afflicted with other serious illnesses who can be found in hospitals or places that offer nursing facilities
Causes of scabies
- Scabies in humans is caused by an eight-legged microscopic mite. The female mite tunnels through the skin and lays several eggs just beneath the surface of the skin. It takes around twenty one days for the eggs to mature, when they burrow their way out to the surface of the skin. Once there, the new mites can spread to other regions of the body and to other individuals as well. The itching is caused as an allergic reaction of the body and the skin to the mites, their waste as well as their eggs.
- Any form of close physical contact with the affected individual can result in the spread and the development of the condition.
- On rare occasions, the sharing of personal items such as bed sheets, pillows, clothing with an affected individual can also help spread scabies rash
- Humans and other animals such as dogs and cats can be affected with dissimilar species of mite. Each distinct species tends to prefer one particular type of host and does not live long in other types of hosts. So humans, who are affected with animal scabies mite, tend to have only temporary skin reactions. Humans who come into contact with human type of scabies mite tend to get afflicted with full blown cases of scabies rash.
- Treatment of scabies rash involves the application of topical medications in the affected areas to kill the mites. The medications should be left on for at least eight hours.
- Some of the drugs that are used to kill scabies mite are, permethrin 5 percent or Elimite for adults as well as children; Lindane, used on individuals above two years of age and should not be used on pregnant or nursing women as well people with fragile immune systems and crotamiton or Eurax for babies.
- Stronger drugs such as oral ivermectin may be prescribed for crusted scabies and severe cases of scabies rash
- Cooling the affected areas, oral antihistamines and other soothing lotions may help alleviate the itching that is associated with scabies rash
- All the clothes and other affected items should be thoroughly washed or thrown in the garbage to prevent a relapse of scabies