The presence of a tiny burrowing mite causes scabies, an uncomfortable skin condition. Intense itching occurs at the site where the mites burrow into the skin. Scabies is contagious and may spread quickly through close physical contact such as in homes, schools and daycare centers.
A microscopic, eight-legged mite, called Sarcoptes scabiei, is responsible for scabies in humans. After burrowing just beneath the skin, the female mite creates a tunnel and lays eggs there. In 21 days, the new mites work their way to the surface of your skin where they mature and can spread the scabies to other areas of the skin or to other people. Your body has an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and their waste, which causes the severe itching.
Common signs of scabies include:
- Extreme itchiness, especially at night
- Tracks of tiny blisters or bumps on the skin
- Burrows or tracks in the folds of the skin
When diagnosing scabies, your physician will look for signs of the burrows to locate the mites. After finding the tracks, the doctor may scrape the area and view the cells under the microscope, confirming the presence of mites and/or eggs.
To eradicate scabies, you must eliminate the infestation using medication. For successful treatment, you apply the medicine all over the body, from the neck down, and leave it on for at least eight hours. Scabies spreads very easily, so your medical practitioner may recommend treatment for anyone in close contact with the patient. The medication will immediately kill the mites, but the itching may linger for several weeks.
If you want to curtail a scabies infestation and stop it from re-occurring or spreading to others, consider the following:
- Wash all clothes, linens and towels in hot soapy water
- Place any items you cannot wash in plastic bags for a few weeks
- Vacuum carpets after treatment
- Keep fingernails as short as possible