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Scabies: An Overview

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Updated May 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Warning: This Article Will Make You Itch

What is Scabies?

Scabies, infection with the Sarcoptes scabei mite, is not always a sexually transmitted disease. Unlike crabs, which is almost always transmitted sexually, scabies can also be passed between members of a household by skin-to-skin contact, shared clothing, towels, and bedding. The mites can live for up to 3 days outside of the human body. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to tell how you got infected, because symptoms can take up to 4 to 6 weeks to appear after initial exposure, and last for up to 2 to 3 weeks after treatment.

Scabies causes a skin rash that primarily shows up on folds of skin, such as between the fingers, on the wrists and ankles, and in the genital area. The scabies skin rash makes you incredibly itchy, and the itching gets worse at night. One of the telling signs of scabies is red burrows found between the fingers and on the wrists and ankles. If you think you might be infected with scabies, try not to scratch. Scratching may cause sores, which can get infected by other bacteria and lead to further problems.

For More Information About Scabies:

  • Scabies Symptoms
    The scabies rash is hard to miss. It is most frequently found between the fingers, and on the wrists and ankles, but it can appear elsewhere as well.
    Warning: Pictures of Scabies May Offend Some Viewers
  • Diagnosing Scabies
    There are several ways that your doctor can determine if your rash that's making you itch so much is caused by scabies. Most of the time, a doctor can diagnose you just by looking at the rash, but sometimes further testing may be needed.
  • Scabies Treatment
    Scabies are treated with topical pesticides. However, you also need to decontaminate your home.

Sources:

CDC Scabies Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/scabies/factsht_scabies.htm. Accessed 5/31/07.

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