What is scabies?

This common condition is caused by a mite, called the human itch mite. It is a very small bug which is not visible, and there are millions of cases of scabies each year, worldwide. Another kind of scabies is called crusted scabies, also called Norwegian scabies. The crusts that form house hundreds if not thousands of mites, compared to around 20 in normal scabies.

What causes it?

Scabies happens when the mite burrows into the skin to feed. They can travel from person to person, but can survive up to 72hrs without, meaning you can get them from clothes, beds, and furniture. Anyone can get this condition, regardless of age, race, or personal hygeine.

What are the symptoms?

When the skin reacts, a very itchy rash occurs. The first time it may take up to 6 weeks for symptoms to appear, subsequent exposures result in symptoms after 1 to 4 days. The rash can look like little bumps in a line, or scaly like eczema. Scratching the rash can cause sores. Crusted scabies will show thick grayish crusts, which crumble easily from contact. Mites like to burrow in areas like elbows and wrists, around nails, skin covered by jewelry or clothing, such as a belt. Sometimes children get the condition, and the rash can cover a lot of the body.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

To determine scabies, a little skin is scraped off and examined under a microscope to find mites or their eggs. Prescription medication is necessary to remove the infestation. Those with close contact with the afflicted person should also seek treatment. A topical medication cures most people, applied at bedtime, and washed off upon waking. Permethrin cream, benzyl benzoate lotion, sulfur ointment, crotamiton cream and lindane lotion are often prescribed for scabies. Crusted scabies require stronger medication, such as ivermectin. Your dermatologist at Dermatology of Seattle may recommend other treatment. For itch, antihistamines and pramoxine lotion, or a steroid cream to reduce swelling and redness. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. Skin typically heals in 4 weeks. To prevent another outbreak, you will need to wash towels, clothes and bedding, and vacuum the entire home.