Have you ever noticed your itch getting more intense at night? Did you experience this severe itching after you visited a nursing home? If that’s the case, then chances can be that you are infected with “Sarcoptes scabiei.”
Sarcoptes scabiei is a microscopic mite that is famous for causing scabies. Anyone can contract this contagious disease, but it has a higher prevalence in urban areas and greater frequency during the winter season.
This blog post will cover everything related to scabies and help you understand this medical condition closely — so let’s get into it!
Scabies is a skin infection caused by the burrowing action of a female parasite. The mites burrow and lay eggs into the skin that later mature into adults, and the process repeats.
It is characterised by:
- Intense itching (pruritus)
- Secondary infection (usually by Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus)
- Pimple-like rash
- Superficial burrows
Keep in mind that mites are often confused with lice — which is not the case. Lice live on the skin and are often associated with areas that grow hair, i.e., the scalp or pubic area. In comparison, mites dig into the skin (burrowing) and cause infection.
Before discussing further medical aspects of scabies, it would be better to start with the fundamental understanding of how Sarcoptes scabiei wreaks havoc on an individual.
We have tried to summarise its life cycle in a few points that are as follows:
- Adult female parasites dig into the skin and lay 2-3 eggs daily.
- In about 3-4 days, eggs finally hatch into their larval form.
- The larvae then travel to the skin and further dig into the moulting pouches (smaller burrows as compared to adult burrows).
- Transformation of the larva into nymphs occurs, which finally transforms into adult mites.
- Mating occurs when male mites enter the moulting pouches.
- The impregnated female leaves the moulting pouch in search of a permanent burrow.
- Once the burrow is decided, she continues to lay eggs, and the process repeats itself.
Causes and Transmission
Scabies is a parasitic infection and can only be caused by Sarcoptes Scabiei. However, certain factors can promote the transmission of this mite and may lead to this disease.
How Does Scabies Occur?
- Skin-to-skin contact – establishing a direct connection with someone (touching) who has contracted scabies.
- Sexual contact – having a sexual relationship with someone suffering from scabies.
- Transfer from bedding, towels, and clothing – using someone’s toiletries.
Exposure to this mite is also most common in nursing homes, daycares, and hospitals. Moreover, it must be considered that transmission only occurs as long as the person is infected and untreated.
There are a few symptoms that are specific to scabies. If an individual is suffering from any of these symptoms, chances are they are a victim of this parasite.
Let’s take a look at the manifestations of this disease for better understanding:
- Pimple-like rash or burrows between fingers, wrist, elbows, armpits, female breasts (specifically on the skin of nipples), umbilical area, scrotum, penis, buttocks, beltline and on the inside of legs and ankles.
- Erythematous (hot & red) skin.
- Severe itching (pruritus), especially at night.
- Secondary infection.
It takes about 2-6 weeks for the symptoms to appear after getting infected with Sarcoptes scabiei for the first time. However, in cases of reinfection, the symptoms may take 1-4 days to appear, and they are usually milder in nature.
Treatment Of Scabies
Want to hear the good news? It is a curable disease.
While we encourage you to seek professional help, we have also found some treatments that work:
The most common treatment, which is safe for babies as young as one-year-old and pregnant women, are topical scabicides. They are available as 5% permethrin cream and are easy to apply and wash off.
- Apply a thin layer on your entire body while paying particular attention to the skin folds.
- Trim your fingernails and apply under the nails for a maximum of 8 hours. It is preferable to follow the guidelines given on the product.
- Wash it off with lukewarm soap water and dry your skin.
Additional Treatment Options
Some other scabies treatment options are centred towards conservative management, and they can also be prescribed to the patient.
Some of them are as follows:
- Antihistamines: To control the itch and help you sleep.
- Antibiotic: To fight off secondary infection.
- Pramoxine lotion: To control the itch.
- Steroid cream: To ease the redness, irritation, and swelling.
How To Prevent The Spread Of This Disease?
In order to protect ourselves from this disease, it is essential to know how to control it. There are several beneficial ways to protect ourselves from falling prey to scabies. Some of them include:
- Educating the patient about the importance of personal hygiene.
- Increasing awareness about the prevalence of this medical problem.
- Educating the family members of the patient.
- Encouraging the patient to shower frequently.
- Instructing the patient to change his clothes regularly.
While scabies is a treatable disease with complete recovery, it is painful. Because it directly affects the quality of your sleep and causes severe itching, it can prove to be a pretty disturbing and uncomfortable medical condition.
In order to protect yourself from scabies, you should maintain personal hygiene at all times. Besides keeping yourself clean, it is also essential to regularly wash your bedding and not share your personal items, such as towels, combs, etc.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from scabies, it is never too late to seek medical help. After all, better late than never, right?