Scabies is a skin disease caused by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The itch mite causes this highly itchy, highly contagious skin infection. The infection has nearly 300 million cases reported across the world every year. It is a common disease and can affect any age, race. Everyone is susceptible to this infection. The mite is an eight-legged, tiny parasites. They are just about 1/3millimeter long and penetrate the skin producing severe itching. The itching tends to peak during the night time.
The upper layers of skin are where the itch mite creates burrows and lays its eggs in the skin. Sexual contact is the primary reason for the infection traveling from one person to another. However, in the U.S as per the reports the mite menace frequently affects the homeless population. This itch mite often spreads in places where people are living in close proximity to others such as dormitories, institutions, or prisons.
The female mite has been found to infest humans. They are 0.3 mm-0.4 mm long; The mites are visible under a microscope or magnifying. The mites crawl, but are unable to fly or jump.
The symptoms involve a skin rash that has red blisters and bumps. An extreme & non-stop itching. The itching that requires scratching of the infected place can lead to secondary infections.
The first sign of Scabies infection is a rash or patches of rash. A rash in the affected area has extensions or tendrils going out of the area of an itchy rash or severely itchy rash. The deep burrows are created by the itch mite on the skin layers. Especially if they have noticed similar skin changes on a person with whom they may have had close contact. In younger patients, the rash or infection appears as pinkish-brown nodules. The incubation period for the mites is about eight weeks;
It is done by examining the affected area skin. The doctor scrapes the skin area of deep burrows. The sample is checked under the microscope. Upon identification of the mite and eggs, the infection is confirmed.
- Skin scrapes to identify the mites or eggs
- For a closer skin examination, a handheld dermoscopy is used. The procedure is defined as Dermoscopy.
- The doctor may use another method called Adhesive tape test. The skin is applied with a strong tape to the lesion area. The tape is then pulled off and inspected under a microscope.
The rash and the burrows are the primary signs that doctors use to identify to confirm the infection.
The mites can survive without a human body for only 48-72 hours. The mite can crawl, but they do not fly. If the infection is not controlled or the person comes in contact with more people, other people can get infected. It’s an extremely contagious infection.
The mite infection is best prevented by proactive steps. First, it is best to avoid contact with the person who is infected. The infected person must isolate himself or herself. Ensure the bed sheets, clothes, towels are kept aside and washed with high-temperature water.
Clothing sharing, holding hands, sex and being in an environment or sharing clothes where mites may have fallen off and are still active. In general, most people who become infected usually have about 10-15 itch mites on their body. One exception to this rule is an infection that is seen less frequently called crusted or Norwegian Scabies, in which large areas of skin are infected with vast numbers (thousands) of itch mites; a person with this type of infection is highly contagious.
There is always a question if there are different kinds of this skin infection. The symptoms may vary, but there is only one type of mite is responsible for it. There is a difference in the way the rash appears on the skin. The generic symptoms are tiny blisters on the skin and a thread like red line. They might travel line on below the skin where the female lays the eggs in the skin folds are perfect places for the rash to appear. The infection may be seen under the breasts, between the fingers, around the genitals, just below the knees.
The inside of elbows are susceptible to the rash and infection. In infants, the rash can appear in the head section, around the scalp and also on the face. The Norwegian makes its appearance in people with a weakened immune system. The symptoms include widespread crusts that are thick & gray in color. The crusts easily crumble when touched. The cause of Norwegian is because the density of mites is acute and accordingly the severity of the infection and symptoms gets displayed on the infected skin.
Severe scratching can lead to scaling and breaking the skin. If not controlled in its primary stage, another second bout of bacterial infection can occur like Impetigo. Impetigo is an infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria or occasionally by streptococci bacteria. The crusted infection can affect certain high-risk groups
- Chronic health condition patients, such as HIV or chronic leukemia
- People who are critically ill.
Home Remedies :
The infection and the intense scratching requires some home remedy support. Some of the things that can be tried are to soak the affected area in cold water. Or to keep the wet cloth on the affected area. The Lactocalamine is found to be useful on this ailment. It is available over the counter. The doctor may prescribe over the counter Antihistamines that are found to give relief to the infected person. The mites can live up to 48 hours after they fall off the infected person’s body. It is hence important that the beddings, clothes, towels, pillows are washed in hot water that is 122oF.
Scabies treatment needs to be administered only after consultation with one’s doctor. It is advised that do not use generic medicines without proper advice. The skin type being different for each one of the patients means the medication may vary. There are several creams & lotions available in the market. The prescribed medicine needs to be applied neck and downwards. The cream needs to be left for at least 8 hours on the body. Considering the high contagious property of the infection, the doctor mostly recommends treatment for family members who share the home with the patient.
It is important to note that although the mites are killed by the medicines applied, the itching continues for an extended period and can stretch to several weeks. Based on the result of the medication and if the patient continues to a complaint of scratching the doctor may recommend advanced medication. The medics may recommend a tropical medicine with sulfur compounded in Petroleum. The most common medications prescribed are Permethrin cream 5% (Elimite), Lindane Lotion and Ivermetacin. The severe case of infection where the infection covers many parts of the body are treated with ivermectin. All the medications are to be taken only after consultation with your doctor.