Have you been noticing that you are incredibly itchy lately? Are you suffering from a strange, red rash on your hands, arms, or thighs? If so, then you may be suffering from an unpleasant skin infection, known as scabies. Scabies infections tend to occur in outbreaks and are actually on the rise in the United States. They are also extremely contagious and can affect all the members in a household in a very short time. Because scabies symptoms are so unpleasant, it is important to look for scabies treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, the scabies rash can become infected, putting you at increased health risks.
What is Scabies?
Scabies is a skin infection that is caused by a microscopic mite, known as Sarcoptes Scabei. This tiny mite, invisible to the naked eye, burrows beneath the skin, causing the appearance of the red scabies rash and intense itching. Drawn to the moist heat of the body, the female scabies mite lays her eggs beneath the skin. These eggs soon hatch, perpetuating the scabies cycle.
How Do You Get Scabies?
Scabies is primarily transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with a person who is already infected. This contact needs to be prolonged in order for the scabies mite to transfer onto your body. This is why most transmission occurs between sexual partners or those living is close or confined spaces. The scabies mite cannot jump or fly from one person to another. Quick contact, like hugging or hand shaking is usually not sufficient to become infected with scabies.
It is possible to contract scabies if you come into contact with infected items, such as towels, bedding, or clothing. Though pets can contract scabies – there is canine scabies and scabies in cats – humans cannot contract scabies from animals. The scabies mite that infects animals cannot survive on the human body.
Who is At Risk for Scabies?
Anyone can contract scabies, no matter what there age or sex. However, certain factors can increase your risk of becoming infected and experiencing scabies symptoms. These factors include:
- having close or intimate contact with an infected person
- living in confined quarters with a number of other people (such as in a hospital, care facility, or dormitory)
- being young or over the age of 70
What are the Symptoms of Scabies?
Unfortunately, scabies symptoms can be quite unpleasant. In most people, symptoms can take up to six weeks to manifest; however, if you have already been infected by the scabies mite, symptoms usually occur within a few days of infection. Signs of scabies include:
- severe and prolonged itching
- the appearance of a red, blister-like rash, particularly on the hands, elbows, knees, and inner thighs
- oozing or crusted sores on the skin
Complications Associated with Scabies
If scabies treatment is sought promptly, it is unlikely that you will experience any complications associated with the infection. However, prolonged scratching of the scabies rash can lead to possible bacterial infection of the skin. This type of infection is often referred to as impetigo.
Some people suffer from a severe form of scabies, known as Norwegian or Crusted Scabies. This form of scabies is characterized by the presence of thousands of scabies mites all over the body. This causes a scaly layer to form all over the body. Norwegian scabies can spread very quickly and is most common in those who have compromised immune systems.
If you notice any signs of scabies, it is important to seek treatment immediately. This will help to stop the scabies cycle and prevent infection of others around you. Treatment of scabies generally involves the use of an antiparasitic lotion. This lotion should be applied to a clean body, from the neck downwards. Be sure to cover all areas of the body, especially skin folds around the knees and elbows, and the webbing between the fingers. You may need to reapply this lotion seven to ten days later.
After treatment, you should begin to notice a decline in the number of burrows on your skin. Within two to four days, your scabies rash should also begin to heal itself. Itching may continue for up to three weeks, but your health care practitioner can provide you with medication to help minimize this side effect.