Dermatology Information and Resources


Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei, a mite that can be hosted by the skin for several months. Eventually these mites reproduce, burrow underneath the skin and lay eggs. [1]Crusted scabies, also called Norwegian scabies is another form that is very contagious and can be hard to treat since mites might exceed normal numbers.[2]

Common symptoms: Scabies produces intense itching with red, rashy, pimple-like spots forming on the skin. Blisters and small bumps are common as well as intensified itching at night when the mites are most active. Symptoms can become present anywhere that the mites have burrowed underneath the skin,the  most common areas are the scalp, insides of the elbows, wrists, around the breasts, waist, genitals, and knees.[3] Crusted scabies result in crusty and scaly skin, spreading over a larger area of the body.

Causes: Scabies is highly contagious, and people tend to contract it via skin-to-skin contact with another scabies carrier. It is also frequently transmitted through bedding, towels, and infested clothing. Scabies can spread quickly in populated spaces such as child care centers, nursing homes, prisons, or group homes. Scabies can affect any age group, as it is commonly found in infants, as well as in the elderly.[4]

Treatment: Thoroughly washing any borrowed items such as clothes, hairbrushes, towels, furniture, and bedding before use is a great way to prevent scabies. Also, since these microscopic mites can’t be seen, avoiding skin contact with someone who appears to have a rash or persistent itching can help. Scabies treatment will go further than treating the rash, it will kill the infestation altogether. A doctor can prescribe ointments, creams, and lotions that can be applied directly to the entire body or just the localized area depending on the severity of the infestation.[5] Oral medications can be prescribed as well. Be sure to follow the doctor’s instructions by using the medications as prescribed, even if you start feeling relief right away. It’ll be important to kill the entire infestation or scabies is likely to return.

Common medicines used to treat scabies include:

  • 5 percent permethrin cream
  • 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion
  • 10 percent sulfur ointment
  • 10 percent crotamiton cream
  • 1 percent lindane lotion[6]

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