Scabies is a skin condition caused by infection with scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei). Scabies mites are microscopic parasite organisms that burrow deep inside the skin, causing inflammation, itching and rash. Later symptoms of scabies are: crusty aspect of the skin, pustules, blisters and nodules. Most of the symptoms generated by scabies are actually allergic reactions to the mites’ eggs and feces which are toxic to the human body. Skin rash is the first symptom to occur when suffering from scabies, emerging after only a few days from contamination with the parasite mites. Scabies rash is very persistent and it can last for up to several weeks or months after the mite infestation has been eradicated.
Scabies is very contagious and the parasite mites responsible for causing the disease can be either acquired directly, by entering in contact with contaminated people or indirectly, by entering in contact with contaminated objects. Scabies is widespread in orphanages and nursing homes, due to overcrowding and poor hygiene. In order to prevent the occurrence of scabies, it is very important to maintain a good level of personal hygiene and to avoid sharing personal items with other people.
The mites responsible for causing scabies usually infest less exposed regions of the skin, such as armpits, feet, the areas between the toes, buttocks and pubic area. Scabies is usually diagnosed upon clinical signs of the disease. Although scabies mites are microscopic, their presence can be easily revealed by the traces they leave on the surface of the skin. The mites’ burrows can be observed with the naked eye and they are a clear indicator of scabies. In order to confirm the clinical diagnose, doctors often take samples of the inflamed skin for analysis under the microscope.
The medical treatment for scabies works on multiple levels; some medications are aimed at killing the parasite mites, while other medications are prescribed for alleviating the symptoms generated at the level of the skin. The treatment for scabies usually consists of topical creams or lotions for external use. Permethrin-containing creams are very effective in overcoming the infestation with mites and they are commonly prescribed in the treatment of scabies. In order to maximize its effects, the medications for scabies should be applied not only locally, but on the entire surface of the skin. While permethrin-based medications deal with the mite infestation, scabies rash and itch can be alleviated by taking frequent warm showers and baths. If the itch and rash are severe, doctors may also prescribe a treatment with hydrocortisone, antihistamine and analgesics.
Although the treatment for scabies can quickly eradicate the infestation with mites, the symptoms of scabies can persist for long periods of time. This is due to the fact that even after they die, the mites remain under the skin, continuing to produce allergies and skin rashes. In infants and very young children, the post-scabies rash can be very severe. After completing the treatment for scabies, many young children develop acropustulosis, a skin condition that can persist for more than a few months!
Due to its contagious character and its persistent symptoms, scabies is considered to be a very serious skin condition. Even with appropriate treatment, people affected by scabies can still develop widespread rashes and persistent allergies.