Wednesday, October 14, 2009
All You Need To Know About Scabies
While playing tennis last weekend, one of my partners whispered, "Hey you should blog about scabies. There is an epidemic going around." I don't know about a scabies epidemic, but catching scabies is common and it can crop up just about anywhere. People don't like to talk about parasite infections, so here is all you need to know.
Scabies are tiny borrowing skin mites with a scientific name of Sarcoptes scabiei. The little female mite burrows just beneath the skin and deposits eggs that mature in about 10 days. New mites hatch and spread to other areas of skin or other people. Symptoms appear 4-6 weeks after infection unless a person has had scabies before. Then the symptoms appear right away.
Scabies are contagious and spread through close physical contact in families, schools or nursing homes. The victim has severe itching, usually worse at night and sometimes you can see little burrow tracks or tiny blisters on the skin. The itching is not caused by the mite but is the body's allergic reaction to the mite. Any part of the body can be infected but they like to go toward the folds of skin...around the waist, wrists, between fingers, breasts, buttocks.
Scabies can be diagnosed by the physician looking under a microscope at small scrapings. Prescription topical creams and lotions eliminate the infestation but the itching can continue for several weeks. (Since it is an allergic reaction). Usually close family contacts are also treated even if they are not showing symptoms.
To prevent re-infestation all clothes and linen need to be washed and dried with high heat. The scabies mite can also be starved by putting items that can't be washed in a sealed plastic bag for a couple of weeks. Mites die if they are starved for a week. Fumigation of the living area is not needed.
Scabies can be dangerous and hard to treat in people that are immune suppressed. For others, the prescription lotions will kill the infection readily.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 5:53 AM