Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a microscopic mite. It is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with an infested person. Symptoms usually begin slowly, with a minor rash and itching that tends to be worse at night. Treatment for scabies involves killing the mites and treating any family members who have been in close contact with the infected person.
What Is Scabies?
Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabiei.
How Common Is It?
Scabies is a common infection found worldwide, and it affects people of all races and social classes. The condition spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in:
- Childcare facilities
- Nursing homes.
Causes of Scabies and Transmission Methods
As mentioned, scabies is caused by an infestation with the Sarcoptes scabiei mite and is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested. Contact must be prolonged (a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread it). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. It may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.
(Click Scabies Causes for more information.)
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of scabies usually begin slowly, with a minor rash and itching that tends to be worse at night. Scratching spreads the mites to other areas, and, after several weeks, the symptoms worsen. At this point, common symptoms can include:
- Pimple-like irritations, burrows, or rash on the skin.
- Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body.
- Scaling and redness caused by the scratching.
- Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.
- Small rounded lumps (often on the penis and scrotum) that may remain for several weeks after treatment.
The scabies rash is typically found on the:
- Webbing between the fingers
- Shoulder blades.
(Click Scabies Pictures to see pictures of this rash.)