Scabies – Causes, Treatment, Symptoms

Scabies are skin infection caused by tiny insects leading to severe itching. The tiny mites will make burrows on the skin area urging the person to scratch intensely. The scratching and itching will be severe during night. Scabies can be transmitted by direct skin contact but it can be fully cured by oral or topical creams.

Since scabies can spread quickly the entire family can get infected even if one person of the family gets scabies infection. It spreads easily in social group like classroom, child care center, and nursing home. Scabies is one of the common types of sexually transmitted diseases since it spreads quickly by sexual contact.

Scabies Symptoms

Itching (moderate to severe) of the skin is the first sign of scabies. Itching grows severe during night disturbing quality sleep. There can be burrow tracks or tiny blisters on the skin forming bumps or lesions. Folds of the skin are largely affected by scabies. Some of the body parts where burrow tracks are found are between two fingers, armpits, waistline, inner elbow, soles of feet, male genitals, breasts (for women), shoulder blades, knees and buttocks. Itching may not occur for first few weeks the mites has entered your body. But after a month or two, itching will be intense and worst at night.

For children, lesions will be seen on face, neck and scalp in addition to palms and soles of feet. Scabies rash would create small blisters or red colored bumps on the skin. These bumps are called papules which contain blood crusts. The burrows will look like threadlike projection measuring 2-10mm long. Small grayish brown or red lines can be seen on the affected areas of skin.

Scabies Causes

Scabies are caused by itch mite by name sarcoptes scabiei. These mites are tiny insects having 8 legs measuring 1/3 mm in length. They create burrows on the skin areas to penetrate which causes severe itching. The females will enter the skin through burrows and deposit eggs which will be hatched into larvae in 3 days. These larvae will get back to the surface of the skin and spread to other areas. It cannot be seen by naked eye and doctors’ use magnifying lens for identifying these mites.

Scabies are common skin infection affecting millions of people worldwide and they spread quickly in social set-up like hospital, clinic, institutions and child-care centers. You can get infested from dogs, cats and other pets though animal mites are different from that of human mites.

How Does Scabies Spread?

Scabies mites cannot live without the host for more than 24 hours. It can get transmitted by direct skin contact with infected person. Chances of getting scabies mites by sharing clothing, bedding of infested person is less. You can get easily infected by having sexual activity with infected person. Scabies are considered to be the most common type of STD for sex workers and youngsters.

Risk Factors

Close skin to skin contact, sexual intercourse, and prolonged hugging are the main risk factors for getting scabies. Outbreaks can occur in social settings like school, hospital and institutions.


The doctor would examine the body physically and look for typical symptoms of unrelenting itch. He would look for evidence of mite’s presence by scraping test. He would gently scrape the skin on the burrow areas and examine it under microscope to identify mites or eggs.


Severe itching (at night) can scratch or break your skin giving room for secondary infection like impetigo. It might weaken the immune system of the person if he/she is having chronic health problems. Crusted scabies often produces scaly patches covering large areas of skin making it difficult to treat.

Scabies Treatment

Prescription medication like scabicide is given for treating scabies. Compounds that contain permethrin are given in the form of topical creams. It should be applied liberally on the affected skin and left overnight and washed off in the morning. The same drug should be used at least for 10 days.

Alternatively 30 gm of lindane cream can be applied on the affected skin and kept for 8-10 hours. This cream should not be used by nursing mother and pregnant women and children/elderly people. Oral medications include Iyermectin which is effective in curing scabies infection. Crotamiton lotion like Eurax is an approved drug for managing scabies rash. Antihistamines like Benadryl can give temporary relief from itching.

Home Remedies

After using medication, you need to wash the bedclothes and linens in hot water to prevent possibility of getting mites again. Treatment is to be given for all family members since it is contagious. Itching may continue for several weeks even after the mites/eggs have been destroyed. Apply soothing lotion like calamine to get relief from inflammation of skin. You can also apply wet clothing on the affected area.


Clean all bed clothing and linens in hot water. Use high heat formula for drying which would destroy the mites. You can opt for dry-cleaning by storing the affected clothing in sealed plastic bags. Mites cannot survive without food (blood) and will die within a day or two.

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