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Scabies

Scabies Quick Overview

  • Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by a small mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).
  • The mite lays eggs in human skin, which hatch and grow into adult mites. This means that signs and symptoms of the condition can last for months or even years.
  • Symptoms and signs of scabies include generalized intense itching; the condition is sometimes called the "seven year itch."
  • Symptoms and signs of scabies on the skin vary and may include short, linear, or nodular "burrows" between the fingers, tiny red bumps and blisters on the skin, or a widespread, crusted rash. Often, there are no visible skin lesions.
  • The mite is spread from person to person by skin-to-skin contact.
  • Animals can harbor a similar mite, but when the animal mite is passed to people, it cannot reproduce and dies within a few days.
  • Scabies can affect anyone, but it is particularly common in congested areas, such as nursing homes and hospitals, where it can spread widely.
  • The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that only prescribed medications be used to treat scabies.
  • The majority of uncomplicated scabies infections are treated by primary-care providers or pediatricians.
  • In people who have poor immune systems or who are malnourished, scabies can cause a syndrome called "crusted scabies" or "Norwegian scabies," which is highly contagious and is associated with skin thickening and a scaly rash.

What Causes Scabies?

Scabies is caused by an eight-legged mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) that is less than 0.5 mm long. Worldwide, about 300 million people are infected each year. In the U.S., there were outbreaks of scabies in 10 schools in Texas and in hospital workers in Charlotte, N.C., in 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2016

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Scabies - Symptoms and Signs

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Scabies - Effective Treatments

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Learn how to treat and prevent scabies.

Scabies Treatment and Prevention

If a household member becomes infested with scabies, the goal of treatment (for example, with a mite-killer such as permethrin [Elimite] or lindane [Kwell]) is also to prevent infestation of household contacts. Therefore, treatment is usually recommended for all close contacts of the affected person. The treatment should occur for the affected individual and his/her close contacts at the same time in order to prevent re-exposure. Permethrin can be used on infants 2 months and older; lindane is not recommended for use in children.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Scabies »

Human scabies is an intensely pruritic skin infestation caused by the host-specific mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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