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What you need to know about scabies

What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition, caused by a tiny eight-legged parasite called scabies mites or Sarcoptes scabiei. These small, insect like parasites infect the top layer of the skin, by burrowing underneath the skin can lay their eyes in the top layer of your skin. They are that small that you will not notice them. In fact the female mites are about 0.3 mm-0.4 mm long and the male mites are round half that size. But these little mites will burrow into the skin and triggering itching, irritation and rashes. It is also easily spread to other parts of the body during skin to skin touching, but it is main passed on during sex. Oddly, even though the rash are might be large, an infected person will only have 10 -15 live mites.Scabies, although really uncomfortable, is not dangerous and it can be cured with pills and medicated creams.

How it is transmitted?

Scabies can easily be transmitted. This can happen by skin to skin contact, where the other person is infected. This normally occurs with adults during sex, where there is close contact for a long time. However, you can also be contaminated if in close quarters with others, and sharing infected towels, bedding, or clothes.

Handshakes, hugs, casual touching, or toilet seats are not going to lead to an infecting. That is since prolonged contact is needed with an infected person for scabies to spread.

That said, health practices and good hygiene cannot prevent the transmission if there is close contact with an infected person.

Symptoms

The symptoms of scabies are itching and a pimple like rash and blisters. This rash can appear on any part of the body. The common areas are elbows, armpits, wrists, as well as around the nails and between the toes and fingers. The rash can also be found on the buttocks and genital areas. The itching is normally worse at night. It will gradually worsen from an irritation to the point whereby an infected person struggles to sleep.

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Testing for scabies

A doctor will examine your history and conduct a physical examination of the bumps. The doctor will then conduct some tests to confirm the diagnosis. These could include:

  • Taking skin samples by scraping the skin to identify the eggs or mites
  • Using a dermoscope which will magnify the area and allows to see the presence of mites on the skin
  • Using an adhesive tape, applied to the area and then removed and placed under a microscope to check for mites.

Treatment

There are no approved over-the-counter treatment to cure scabies. More so home remedies are not effective. Plus, antibiotics are not an effective treatment for scabies as scabies is a parasitic infestation and not a bacterial infections.

There are different methods that your doctor can use to treat scabies. They can include creams, oral medication, but also disinfection of your living space.

Creams

Your doctor can prescribe a mite-killer topical cream which needs to be applied on the skin. But you will need to apply it from your neck to feet. You will then leave it on, overnight, allowing 8 – 14 hours to work before washing it off. This treatment should be repeated after 1 – 2 weeks.

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Oral medication

If the scabies is extensive and the bumps are crusted, then oral medication, might be recommended. These medication might have side-effects. Other forms of medication prescribed is antihistamines. These will give some relief to the itching and allow you to sleep.

Disinfection of your living space

Luckily the scabies mites are very sensitive to their environment. And they can only live off of a human host for 24 – 36 hours, and 72 hours at most, without human blood. Washing of lines and bedclothes in hot water and dry on high heat are recommended as a means to kill the mites. However there is no need to clean the rest of the house, as the mites can’t survive without human blood.

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Other measures

You should make sure everyone is treated. This will avoid reinfection.
Keep all the open sores clean.

Do not scratch the bumps, and it will lead to spreading and scars.
Keep toenails and fingernails clean of any eggs or mites.

Complications

If you starch the bumps they might get infected and you might end up with scars.

About Jacques Dippenaar

Jacques is an influential health blogger and researcher helping readers explore interesting facts and information.

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