Everything You Need To Know About Scabies

When you are diagnosed with scabies, it’s distressing to think that you have tiny mites on your skin! But absolutely anyone can get scabies. Fortunately, the condition is easy to cure, so scabies typically only causes temporary discomfort.

What Is Scabies? “Scabies is a skin infection caused by infestation with the Sarcoptes mite,” shares Melanie Pickett, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology – Central Austin in Austin, Texas.  Scabies is contagious and can be extremely itchy. The transparent pinhead-sized mites burrow into the very superficial top layer of skin and feed and lay eggs. Appearing as red or fluid-filled bumps, the scabies rash typically occurs between the fingers and toes, and on the wrists, elbows, armpits, abdomen, chest, and groin. Although it does not typically involve the face in adults, scabies may show up on the face and scalp of babies and young children.

How Do You Get Scabies? In order to move from one person to another, the mites need prolonged skin-to-skin contact, such as from sharing a bed or holding hands. It can also be transferred by contact with clothes, bedding, or linens that have been used by an infected person. “An infected person is contagious until all the mites and eggs are killed by the treatment,” informs Dr. Pickett.

Why Does The Scabies Rash Itch? By the time the itch starts, the mites have typically been in contact with the skin for about four to six weeks. But they’re not actually biting or stinging you, and they do not involve your mouth, your bloodstream or your internal organs, as they are confined to the skin.  About a month after the initial infestation, your body begins to see the mites as foreign material and mounts an allergic response to them and their waste, making your skin itch intensely where the mites have burrowed.

The Scabies Prep Test Scabies may look similar to contact dermatitis, impetigo or eczema. “To make a diagnosis, your dermatologist considers the appearance and location of your rash, the intensity of the itch, your medical history, and any history of possible exposure,” explains Dr. Pickett. Your doctor may also perform a scabies prep test. Using a drop of mineral oil and a sterile scalpel blade, the doctor scrapes off the tops of several vesicles and places the skin on a glass slide. Using a microscope, the doctor will look for mites or their eggs in the skin scraping on the slide. The test is non-invasive but definitive – if any mites or eggs are seen, the rash is scabies.

What Is The Treatment for Scabies? Your dermatologist may prescribe a topical medication for scabies that can be applied at home.  Some cases may require oral medication.  Symptomatic treatment with antihistamines or steroid creams may be prescribed as well.  “It is also important that close contacts such as household members or significant others be treated to prevent reinfestation,” Dr. Pickett suggests. Clothes, bedding, and towels should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Household items that cannot be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours.

Successfully curing scabies depends on accurate diagnosis and timely treatment. If you have an itchy rash – or any other skin condition – the dermatologists at Sanova Dermatology have the knowledge to help you feel better fast. Contact us today for all your dermatologic needs!

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