What is it?

Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by a tiny parasite called Sarcoptes scabei. The female parasite burrows under the skin and lays eggs within 2-3 hours of infection. It generally lays 2-3 eggs daily. The eggs hatch and become adult mites within 10 days.

What are the causes?

Scabies can be transmitted through: Close physical contact with an infected person. Contaminated clothing, furniture, towels or bed linen. Household pets.

What are the symptoms?

Scabies can affect the genitals, hands and arms, feet, ankles and buttocks, wrists, navel, breasts, fingers and toes. The parasite forms visible burrows in the skin, causing reddish brown nodules or lesions and persistent itching. The itching is particularly severe at night.

How is the diagnosis made?

The condition can be easily diagnosed from the symptoms. The other methods for diagnosis are: Microscopic examination of scrapings from lesions. Application of Tetracycline to the area and examining under light to detect the burrows. Rubbing the area with ink and wiping it off with an alcohol pad. If the person is infected with scabies, the zig-zag line of the burrow across the skin will be visible.

What is the treatment?

Medications to destroy the mite and relieve itching may be used. Use of creams like permethrin and crotamiton may help. Before applying the medication, a warm bath using a soap helps to clean the skin and dislodge the lesions. The medicine may then be applied in a thin layer. Benzyl benzoate emulsion may be applied and washed off after twenty four hours. It should be repeated two or three times. In children, it is wise to dilute it in two or three times water as this helps reduce skin irritation.Bedding and clothing should be washed and dried. All clothes should be washed with a disinfectant. Close physical contact with the infected person should be avoided.The treatment may kill the mites, but the dead mites may be still present in the skin, causing itching. The itch persists for two weeks after the treatment and may go by itself. An anti-allergic tablet may be used till then to minimize the itch.

DoctorNDTV Team

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