Scabies Treatment: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Scabies

Scabies is a disease of public health importance. It is a highly itchy skin disease caused a mite. In this Article we will see what Scabies is, signs and symptoms of scabies, diagnosis of scabies, prevention as well as Scabies treatment.

What is Scabies Infection?

Scabies is a highly contagious itchy skin disease that is caused by the infestation of the skin by a tiny skin mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites are too tiny to be seen with the naked eyes.

The mites live on the skin but can also burrow into the skin and live. They reproduce on the skin and if untreated, the scabies mites can live on the skin for months or years causing a highly itchy skin rash.

Scabies occurs worldwide. It is estimated to affect millions of people from across the world at every given time.  Scabies is not by any means an indication of poor hygiene. All races and social classes can be affected by scabies.

Mode of Transmission Of Scabies: How do one get infected by Scabies?

Scabies is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with people affected by the disease. It is also sexually transmitted. The commonest means of spread of scabies among sexually active young adults is through sexual intercourse.

Scabies can also be transmitted through towel, underwear, clothing, or bedding  that have been freshly contaminated by an infested person. This means of transmission is not very common. These scabies mites can only survive for 48 to 72 hours outside the human body.

It is important to note that since scabies is mostly transmitted via direct physical contact, the infestation can easily be passed on to friends, family members, and sexual partners.

Symptoms Of Scabies: How does Scabies Present?

Scabies itching begins 2 to 6 weeks in freshly infected individuals but starts within 1 to 5 days in individuals previously exposed to scabies. This is called the incubation period of the illness.

The main symptoms of scabies infection is rash and intense persistent itching. This itching is usually worse at night and starts from the area first exposed to the disease. Scabies rash appears as  tiny bites, hives, bumps under the skin, or pimple-like bumps with the burrow tracks sometimes seen as red discolored lines on the skin.

The commonly affected parts of the body are  area between the fingers, wrist, elbow, armpit, nipple, penis, waist, buttocks. In children and immunocompromised adults, scabies can also affect the face, head, neck, hands, and soles of the foot.

In the severe form of scabies infection called Norwegian Scabies or crusted scabies, the symptoms are more pronounced. It presents as skin crusts. This form is also more contagious. It is common in immunocompromised individuals such as HIV/AIDS, people on steroid etc. The scabies treatment here should be more aggressive.

Excessive or aggressive scratching can lead to sores. These sores can then get infected by bacteria.

crusted scabies photos

Diagnosis Of Scabies

The diagnosis of scabies is mostly clinical. Your doctor can diagnose the illness by taking a history and doing a physical examination. Scabies diagnosis can be confirmed by examining skin scrapings for scabies mite with a microscope. Scabies is often mistaken for a fungal infection so ensure you see your doctor when you see the symptoms.

Scabies Treatment: How is Scabies Treated?

The main goal of Scabies treatment usually involves getting rid of the infestation with lotions, creams and ointments (topical scabicides) which can be applied directly to the skin. Oral medications fro Scabies Treatment (systemic scabicides) are also available. Over the counter medications are usually not effective in scabies treatment.

For simple sacbies infestation  only the application of the cream or lotion will be enough. For more effective treatment of scabies, it is advised that you combine the topical scabicide with the systemic scabicide. Usually a single dose of treatment is enough though symptoms may take some time to clear off completely.

In crusted or Norwegian scabies, treatment should be repeated after one week. In these case an oral Ivermectin should be taken along with the body cream.

Topical medications for Scabies treatment

The topical medications for treatment of scabies includes.

  • 5 percent permethrin cream
  • 1 percent lindane lotion
  • 10 percent sulfur ointment
  • 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion
  • 10 percent crotamiton cream

They are applied on the skin for between 12 to 24hours depending on which of them that you are using.

Oral Medication for Scabies Treatment

Ivermectin (Mectizan, Stromectol)

Additional Treatment for Scabies Infection

  • Use of Antibiotics if there is bacteria super infection especially in cases of crusted scabies.
  • Steroid creams to relieve swelling and itching
  • Antihistamine to help control  itching.

Prevention of Scabies

The good thing about scabies is that we can prevent it. Scabies infection can be prevented by the following ways.

  1. Avoiding skin-to-skin contact with an infected person
  2. Wash clothing, towels, pillow and bedding with hot water and dry on very high heat for at least 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. All items that cannot be washed should be thoroughly vacuumed and the vacuum well cleansed and disinfected with bleach thereafter.
  4. All contacts of an infested person like friends, family and sexual partners should be treated along.