INTRODUCTION

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a tiny, eight-legged burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. This mite causes intense itching in the area of its burrows. The urge to scratch may be especially strong while you’re in bed at night.

Scabies is contagious and can spread quickly through close physical contact in a family, childcare group, school class or home for the aged. Because of the contagious nature of scabies, doctors often recommend treatment for entire families or contact groups to eliminate the mite.

Not to worry, scabies is readily treated by medications applied to your skin that kill the mites, although you may still experience some itching for several weeks.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of scabies include:
•    Itching, often severe and usually worse at night.
•    Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin. Often, however, nothing can actually be seen, especially in dark skinned people.

The tracks typically appear in your skin folds. Almost any part of your body may be involved but scabies in adults is found mostly:
•    Between fingers
•    In armpits
•    Around the waist
•    On the inner elbow
•    On the soles of the feet
•    Around breasts
•    Around the male genital area
•    Along the insides of wrists
•    On buttocks
•    On knees
•    On shoulder blades

In children, common sites of infestation include the:
•    Scalp
•    Soles of the feet
•    Palms of the hands
•    Face
•    Neck

CAUSES

The mite that causes Scabies in humans is microscopic. The female mite burrows just under your skin and produces a tunnel into which it deposits its eggs. These eggs mature in 21 days and the new mites work their way to you skin’s surface.

There they mature and can spread to other areas of your skin or to the skin of other people. The itching of scabies results from your body’s allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and their waste. Yuck!!

Dogs, cats and humans all are affected by their own distinct species of mite. Each species of mite prefers one specific type of host and doesn’t live long away from that host. So humans may have a temporary skin reaction from contact with the animal scabies mite. But people are unlikely to develop full-blown scabies from this source, as they might from contact with the human scabies mite.

COMPLICATIONS

Vigorous scratching can break your skin and allow a secondary bacterial infection such as impetigo to occur. Impetigo is a superficial infection of the skin that’s caused most often by staph (staphylococci) bacteria or occasionally by strep (streptococci) bacteria

Scabies can become a persistent and widespread problem in certain groups of people, especially those with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV or chronic leukemia. Scabies can also be a problem for those who are very ill, such as people in hospitals or nursing facilities. A more severe form of scabies, called crusted scabies, may develop. This type tends to be crusty and scaly, and covers large body areas. It’s very contagious and can be hard to treat.

TREATMENT AND DRUGS

Scabies treatment involves eliminating the infestation with medications. Medications are topical, which means they are applies to the skin, in the form of creams and lotions, of which several are available. They are usually applies from your neck down and left on for at least eight hours. Although these medications kill the mites quickly, you may find that the itching doesn’t stop entirely for several weeks.

Sometimes, doctors prescribe oral medications for people with altered immune systems or for people who don’t respond to the prescribed lotions and creams.

Because scabies spreads so easily, doc may recommend treatment for all family members and other close contacts, even if they show no signs of scabies infestation.

PREVENTION

To prevent re-infestation and to prevent the mites from spreading to other people, take these steps:

•    Clean all clothes and lines. Use hot, soapy water to wash all clothing, towels and bedding you used at least two days before treatment. Dry-clean items you can’t wash at home.

•    Starve the mites. Consider placing items you can’t wash in a sealed plastic bag and leaving it in an out-of-the-way place, such as in your garage, for a couple of weeks. Mites die if they don’t eat for a week.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES

Itching may persist for some time after you apply anti-mite medication to kill the mites. These steps may help you find relief from itching:

•    Cool and soak your skin. Soaking in cool water or applying a cool, wet washcloth to irritated areas of your skin may minimize itching.

•    Apply soothing lotion. Calamine lotion, available over-the-counter, can effectively relieve the pain and itching of minor skin irritations.

•    Take antihistamines. At doc’s suggestion, you may find that over-the-counter and antihistamines relieve the allergic symptoms caused by scabies.

See you next week.