Scabies is a transmissible ectoparasite skin infection characterized by superficial burrows, intense pruritus (itching) and secondary infection. The word scabies comes from the Latin word for “scratch” (scabere).Scabies is a contagious skin disease caused by a species of mite that is very small. Other name is Sarcoptes scabiei .
It produces intense, itchy skin rashes when the impregnated female tunnels into the stratum corneum of the skin and deposits eggs in the burrow. The larvae, which hatch in 3-10 days, move about on the skin, molt into a “nymphal” stage, and then mature into adult mites. The adult mites live 3-4 weeks in the host’s skin.
The action of the mites moving within the skin and on the skin itself produces an intense itch which may resemble an allergic reaction in appearance. The presence of the eggs produces a massive allergic response which, in turn, produces more itching.
Scabies is transmitted readily, often throughout an entire household, by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person (e.g. bed partners, schoolmates, daycare), and thus is sometimes classed as a sexually transmitted disease. Spread by clothing, bedding, or towels is a less significant risk, though possible.
It takes approximately 4-6 weeks to develop symptoms after initial infestation. Therefore, a person may have been contagious for at least a month before being diagnosed. This means that person might have passed scabies to anyone at that time with whom they had close contact. Someone who sleeps in the same room with a person with scabies has a high possibility of having scabies as well, although they may not show
Signs, Symptoms,Exams & Tests and Diagnosis:
The symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction that the body develops over time to the mites and their by-products under the skin, thus the 4-6 week “incubation” period. There are usually relatively few mites on a normal, healthy person â€” about 11 females in burrows. Scabies are microscopic although sometimes they are visible as a pinpoint of white. The females burrow into the skin and lay eggs there. Males roam on top of the skin, however, they can and do occasionally burrow. Both males and females surface at times, especially at night. They can be washed or scratched off (however scratching should be done with a washcloth to avoid cutting the skin as this can lead to infection), which, although not a cure, helps to keep the total population low. Also, humans create antibodies to the scabies mites which do kill some of them.
*Itching, especially at night
*Thin, pencil-mark lines on the skin
*Abrasions of the skin from scratching and digging
A scabies burrow under magnification. The scaly patch at the left is due to scratching of the original papule. The mite traveled from there to the upper right, where it can be seen as a dark spot at the end of the burrow.A delayed hypersensitivity (allergic) response resulting in a papular eruption (red, elevated area on skin) often occurs 30-40 days after infestation. While there may be hundreds of papules, fewer than 10 burrows are typically found. The burrow appears as a fine, wavy and slightly scaly line a few millimeters to one centimeter long. A tiny mite (0.3 to 0.9 mm) may sometimes be seen at the end of the burrow. Most burrows occur in the webs of fingers, flexing surfaces of the wrists, around elbows and armpits, the areolae of the breasts in females and on genitals of males, along the belt line, and on the lower buttocks. The face usually does not become involved in adults.
The rash may become secondarily infected; scratching the rash may break the skin and make secondary infection more likely. In persons with severely reduced immunity, such as those with HIV infection, or people being treated with immunosuppressive drugs like steroids, a widespread rash with thick scaling may result. This variety of scabies is called Norwegian scabies.
Examination of the skin shows characteristic signs of scabies. Tests include microscopic examination of skin scrapings taken from a burrow.
Scabies is frequently misdiagnosed as intense pruritus (itching of healthy skin) before papular eruptions form. Upon initial pruritus the burrows appear as small, barely noticeable bumps on the hands and may be slightly shiny and dark in color rather than red. Initially the itching may not exactly correlate to the location of these bumps. As the infestation progresses, these bumps become more red in color.
Generally diagnosis is made by finding burrows, which often may be difficult because they are scarce, because they are obscured by scratch marks, or by secondary dermatitis (unrelated skin irritation). If burrows are not found in the primary areas known to be affected, the entire skin surface of the body should be examined.
The suspicious area can be rubbed with ink from a fountain pen or alternately a topical tetracycline solution which will glow under a special light. The surface is then wiped off with an alcohol pad; if the person is infected with scabies, the characteristic zigzag or S pattern of the burrow across the skin will appear.
When a suspected burrow is found, diagnosis may be confirmed by microscopy of surface scrapings, which are placed on a slide in glycerol, mineral oil or immersion in oil and covered with a coverslip. Avoiding potassium hydroxide is necessary because it may dissolve fecal pellets. Positive diagnosis is made when the mite, ova, or fecal pellets are found.
Scabies is found worldwide among people of all groups and ages. It is spread by direct contact with infected individuals and less often by sharing clothing or bedding. Sometimes whole families are affected.
The mites that cause scabies burrow into the skin and deposit their eggs, forming a characteristic burrow that looks like a pencil mark. Eggs mature in 21 days. The itchy rash is an allergic response to the mite.
Mites may be more widespread on a baby’s skin, causing pimples over the trunk, or small blisters over the palms and soles. In young children, the head, neck, shoulders, palms, and soles are involved. In older children and adults, hands, wrists, genitals, and abdomen are involved.
Prescription medicated creams are commonly used to treat scabies infections. Such products are applied all over the body. It may be necessary to treat the whole family or sexual partners of infected individuals, even if no symptoms are present.
For difficult cases, some health care providers may also prescribe medication taken by mouth to kill the scabies mites.
Itching may persist after treatment begins, but will disappear if treatment continues exactly as your health care provider prescribes. Itching can be minimized by cool soaks and calamine lotion. Your doctor may additionally recommend an oral antihistamine.
Most cases of scabies can be cured and resolve without any long term problems.
A secondary skin infection such as impetigo can occur because of intense scratching.
When to Contact a Medical Professional:
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of scabies, or if someone with whom you have close (not necessarily sexual) contact has been diagnosed with scabies.
Avoid contact with infected persons
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.