Scabies or sarcoptes scabei are small-sized mites that are barely perceivable to the naked eye. These mites live and breed on human skin and feed on blood. They are spread from one individual to another and do not seem to infect pets since it is a different type of mite that thrives in animals. The indications of scabies include the following:
- Severe itchiness at night time
- Rash that is similar to allergic contact dermatitis or small-sized red bumps
The itchiness is due to the toxins that were released by the mites that trigger an allergic reaction among humans.
Always bear in mind that scabies is quite common and affects millions of individuals all over the world every year. It is quite common in crowded environments where there is frequent close contact between large groups of people. Individuals who are immunocompromised as well as those who live in conditions with poor hygiene are more likely to acquire severe scabies infections.
Prolonged close contact with an individual infected with scabies is required to acquire the condition. Remember that scabies is oftentimes referred to as a sexually transmitted condition since sexual activity is a possible mode of transmission. Theoretically, scabies is not a sexually transmitted disease because it can spread through non-sexual forms of close contact such as sharing clothes, holding hands, cuddling or sleeping in the same bed.
Clothing, furniture and bedding
Always bear in mind that clothing, bedding, furniture as well as carpeting can become infected with scabies once used by an infected individual. Scabies can survive even on inanimate objects for up to 3 days.
Scabies typically requires extended contact for it to spread but Norwegian scabies is an exception. The Norwegian scabies is considered as a more serious form of infection that can spread by quickly brushing up against an infected individual. This type of scabies is also called as crusted scabies since an infected individual ends up with crusted patches of skin due to the large number of mites living in the skin of the individual.
When the symptoms manifest
Once scabies is transmitted to an individual, the female mite digs into the skin and starts laying eggs. After approximately 21 days, the eggs will hatch. The eggs that hatched are hidden on the skin of the individual until they mature and start to breed again. The mature female mites dig into the skin to lay eggs and the cycle repeats.
The itchiness can be noticed by the individual soon after infection, but might not be evident until after the mites already hatched and a full-blown infection takes place.
The treatment for scabies typically involves the application of a topical cream or oral medication in advanced cases. There are also over-the-counter scabies medications available but their effectiveness and safety are not well-documented.