“Crabs” is often used to describe a parasitic type of STD infection. The most common of these sexually transmitted diseases are pubic lice and scabies. While the best way to prevent transmission of STDs like crabs is to engage in sexual health practices such as practicing safe sex, it is possible to contract scabies and lice by other means.
Crabs are extremely contagious and can cause serious discomfort and infection, making STD prevention of genital crabs an important aspect of sexual health. However, if you are experiencing STD symptoms of scabies or lice, STD testing and STD treatment of genital crabs is for the most part readily available.
Scabies Causes and STD Symptoms
Scabies, also known as the “seven-year itch” or simply “the itch,” is a contagious skin condition caused by a burrowing mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. This mite, which may appear as a small white dot, will typically dig small tunnels below the skin’s surface, causing an allergic reaction.
This reaction results in the characteristic symptoms of scabies. The most common of these STD symptoms is the “scabies rash,” which is made up of tiny blisters or bumps. The scabies rash is characteristically found in the folds of the skin and will typically appear at the following sites:
- between the fingers
- inner elbows and knees
- shoulder blades
- around the waist
- genital areas
In addition, an “S” shape may be identified along the skin and indicates the movement of the scabies mite. Intense itching, particularly at night, is also characteristic of scabies and may lead to secondary infections caused by bacteria due to scratching.
Pubic lice parasites typically infest the hair surrounding the genital areas. Over three million cases of crabs in the form of pubic lice are reported in the United States each year, making pubic lice an extremely common sexually transmitted infection.
Some of the common symptoms of public lice include the following:
- genital itching and irritation
- bluish spotting on the skin where lice have been feeding
- dark spots on skin or underwear indicating the parasite’s fecal matter
- visible light, brown insects the size of a pinhead
- oval, white eggs (nits) visible in hair
- slight fever, moodiness, or fatigue
While no serious complications are associated with pubic lice, the infection can cause severe discomfort and will not go away until treated.
Transmission and Diagnosis of Crabs
Transmission of pubic lice and scabies is most commonly due to sexual contact, but not the sole means of transmission. Intercourse is therefore not necessary in order for the sexually transmitted infection to occur. If your sexual partner is in infected with crabs, you have 95% chance of contracting the sexually transmitted disease upon contact.
Sharing bedding, towels, or clothes with family members or partners who are infected with scabies or lice may also be the source of infection, since the parasites can live for up to two days without a host. Living in cramped quarters such as hostels may also increase the risk of infection of crabs.
A diagnosis of scabies or pubic lice is relatively easy and may only require a visit to a health care provider. The skin or infected areas will typically be inspected, and in some cases a scraping sample of the area may be viewed under a microscope if parasites cannot be viewed by the naked eye.
STD Treatment of Crabs
Genital crabs will typically be treated by a prescription or over-the-counter topical solution such as a shampoo or lotion. It is important to follow directions carefully to ensure the treatment of infection and avoid any potential chemical irritation of the skin. Treating scabies or pubic lice will usually require application of treatment to the infected area for a period of approximately eight hours before removal.
Other precautions should be taken in order to prevent re-infestation, which can include the following measures to remove all traces of mites:
- vacuuming rugs, furniture and bedding and disposing of the vacuum bag once finished
- washing all linen and clothing in hot water
- freezing clothes, fabrics, and blankets
- sealing all fabrics in air-tight bags for two weeks to eliminate mites as well as eggs
- cutting nails and cleaning under nails to remove any traces of mites and eggs
Practicing abstinence, reducing multiple sexual partners, and using condoms is the best way of preventing transmission of genital crabs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are experiencing any of the common STD symptoms of pubic lice and scabies to find out more information about the treatment of crabs.