Encyclopedia / S / Scabies



Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. It is characterized by intense itching, usually at night.


Scabies is a relatively common problem caused when the scabies mite burrows into the skin of an unsuspecting individual. As the mite burrows, it lays eggs in the surface layer of the skin. Several days later the eggs hatch and the mites begin to move.


Scabies is highly contagious through skin to skin contact. Although the mite doesn't live very long away from people, it can be contracted by sleeping in the bed of someone who has the problem.


Intense itching is the most common symptom of scabies. This usually occurs at night. Unlike hair lice, it is essentially impossible to see the mite without the aid of a microscope. However, itching and scratching will often cause characteristic nodular bumps in areas infested with the scabies mite. These can occur anywhere on the body except the face.


Diagnosis of scabies is made by scraping the skin and viewing the material under a microscope to see the characteristic mite or eggs. Sometimes it is difficult to find the mite, so a clinical diagnosis is often made by an experienced clinician.


Several topical treatments exist for scabies, the most common of which are Kwell lotion (lindane) and Elimite (permethrin). Care must be taken to use these medications appropriately.


Where did this come from?

Can I spread it to others in my household?

Should I tell my partner I have scabies?

Do I need to fumigate my house?

Is the treatment safe for me? For my children?

Avoiding contact with infected individuals, and good personal hygiene are the most important means of preventing scabies.