Scabies - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Table of Contents
- What is Scabies?
- What Causes Scabies?
- Where Do the Parasites Come From?
- What Are the Symptoms of Scabies?
- How Do You Get Scabies?
- How Is the Body Affected?
- How Long Does It Take for Symptoms to Occur?
- When Is a Person Contagious?
- Do Certain Living Conditions Affect Scabies Infections?
- Are People Living in Groups More Likely to Become Infected?
- How to Effectively Treat Scabies?
- Ridding Living Areas from Mites
- Can Relief Be Found Without a Prescription?
What is Scabies?
Chances are, you may have at least heard the term scabies. Nevertheless, you might not be entirely sure what the term means. Perhaps you have never really had any first-hand encounters with the condition. But for those who have, it's something they will always remember. There may also be those who wonder if they may be having scabies, yet they're uncertain of precisely which symptoms to look out for. Here, you can find out more information about what this condition involves. More specifically, to learn about the causes of scabies, symptoms of the condition, and how to properly treat it.
What Causes Scabies?
Scabies, also called sarcoptic mange, is caused by mites called Sarcoptes scabiei (Mayo Clinic, 2020). As you can probably tell, this is where the term scabies originates. The mites that cause the disease are so small; they are impossible to see with the naked eye. These parasites can be found anywhere in the world.
It's important to realize that this is not a condition that is in any way related to socioeconomic status, race, or nationality. In fact, it's just as easy for individuals living in more upscale neighborhoods to get scabies as it is for those who are living in abject poverty.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a stigma associated with the disease that causes people to believe that only individuals living in filthy conditions can contract scabies. This isn't true. In reality, the disease occurs when the mites get onto the skin and then burrow into the first layer of skin to lay their eggs (CDC, 2020).
Where Do the Parasites Come From?
Scabies is no different from any other type of parasite. They can live on virtually any surface for a short time, only about 24- 72 hours. That said, they can live for as long as two months once they burrow into their host. In this particular case, the host is always a human being. The mites that cause scabies do not infect animals and live only deep within the skin of human beings. They procreate by infecting other humans.
As previously mentioned, this is a global problem that affects people from all walks of life. Once the mites burrow into the skin, a person needs to be treated in order to find relief. Proper treatment will also prevent the continued spread of scabies from person to person.
What Are the Symptoms of Scabies?
The most noticeable symptom of scabies is an intense itch, often so severe that the person affected can scarcely stand it. This itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites themselves. This could explain why some people are affected far more severely than others, as people with a less intense allergic reaction may not experience as much itching as those who have a more robust histamine response.
It’s also common for the itching to be more severe at night, although medical experts are not sure why this particular symptom occurs. Virtually the only other symptom associated with scabies is a rash that looks similar to pimples on the skin. There may be several raised lumps on the affected areas. They are usually in clusters of red. Typically, they are about the size of a pencil eraser in diameter. This rash, together with the presence of an intense itch, could potentially mean that the person in question has contracted scabies and must now be treated for the condition in order to relieve symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
How Do You Get Scabies?
Typically, a person contracts scabies by being in prolonged body contact with someone who is already infected. It’s important to note that in most cases, a handshake or a quick hug is not enough for a person to get scabies, even when they have been in the presence of someone who has it.
To become infected, it’s usually necessary to be in close body contact for a prolonged period. This can occur when two people are intimate or when they live in the same house. In fact, one of the fastest ways to spread the disease is through sexual intercourse.
People who live with someone who has scabies may also be at risk of contracting the disease themselves. Besides, those who share clothing, robes, or towels may be more likely to get scabies if they share an article of clothing with someone who has the condition (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
How Is the Body Affected?
It was mentioned previously that the condition causes intense itching and a rash. Typically, the rash will appear in areas where there are bends or folds in the skin. Therefore, people who are affected are most likely to see a rash between the fingers or toes, behind the knees or around the navel. It’s also common for the rash to appear in the armpit area.
Women are likely to see it underneath the breasts. The rash may be pimple-like in nature, or in some cases; there may be a long raised area of skin that looks somewhat like a tunnel. These are the areas where the female mites have laid their eggs, which causes the itching.
On children younger than two years of age, it’s more common to see the characteristic rash on the face or neck. It may also appear in the bottom of the feet or the palms of the hands. This is not common for older children and adults, so it’s important to recognize key differences such as these in younger children.
Without proper treatment, the condition tends to continue indefinitely. Therefore, it’s imperative that anyone affected receive treatment as soon as possible to restore health and stop the allergic reaction that causes the itch (skinsight, 2020).
How Long Does It Take for Symptoms to Occur?
For those who have never been infected with scabies, it can take as long as four to eight weeks for the first symptoms to occur. Conversely, someone exposed to the condition in the past may begin to exhibit symptoms in just one to four days (CDC, 2020).
The reason for the drastic difference in the amount of time necessary for symptoms to occur in those who have previously been exposed versus individuals who have never had scabies is the body’s own immune system.
Since the itching is caused by an allergic reaction, this reaction occurs much more quickly in someone who has already been exposed to the disease. It’s the same process as virtually any other allergic reaction. For example, those who are allergic to bee stings may experience a relatively mild allergic reaction the first time they are stung.
However, a second bee sting, even years later, may cause a much more significant reaction. That is why individuals who are allergic to such things are often required to carry an Epi-pen with them at all times. Any future allergic reactions may be deadly and require immediate action. In the same way, a person who has already had scabies will notice an immune response from the body much more quickly than someone who has never been exposed. Furthermore, they may notice that the itching is far more intense.
When Is a Person Contagious?
This is one of the most important things to remember. When a person has been exposed to scabies, it is possible to spread the disease to other people, even before the individual in question becomes symptomatic (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
This can potentially cause a whole host of problems for individuals who share intimacy or who live in close quarters. It is possible to infect others weeks before the initial symptoms occur. If it is discovered that a person has been exposed to scabies, it is typically necessary to undergo treatment to rid the body of the mites. In doing so, the symptoms will eventually go away.
Again, it’s unlikely that those who don’t receive medical treatment will experience any significant decrease in symptoms.
Do Certain Living Conditions Affect Scabies Infections?
This is a topic that has already been covered rather thoroughly. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning once again that scabies does not only affect those who live in impoverished areas. While it is true that scabies occurs more frequently in some parts of the world which have limited access to sanitary facilities or proper medication, it’s also common to find the disease in far more affluent areas.
In short, it’s possible for anyone to become infected. In turn, the newly infected individual may then infect other people with whom they come into prolonged, close contact. Therefore, it is impossible to assume that someone from a more affluent neighborhood cannot become infected with scabies.
Are People Living in Groups More Likely to Become Infected?
Since scabies is transmitted from person to person when two or more people are in close contact, group living conditions can exacerbate the problem. These conditions are routinely found in nursing homes, hospice facilities, hospitals, and child care facilities. The reality of the situation is that when one person has the disease and is in close contact with other people, more people can become infected. The more people there are in a given area, the more likely it is that additional infections may occur.
How to Effectively Treat Scabies?
In many cases, treatment for scabies involves the use of prescription creams or lotions that are applied to the body exactly as prescribed. The specific method by which these products are applied will largely depend on both the particular medication being used and the age of the affected person.
For those who are searching for a homeopathic treatment, the itching can sometimes be relieved by using products such as EMUAID® First Aid Ointment or EMUAIDMAX® First Aid Ointment. Any areas of the skin which have become infected should be treated with antibiotics (CDC, 2020).
Ridding Living Areas from Mites
Fortunately, those who have been impacted by scabies don’t have to worry about using any highly specialized methods to rid the home of mites. Since these mites can only live on surfaces without a host for approximately 72 hours, simply removing all body contact from most surfaces will do the trick. Wash any bedding that may have been affected and do the same with clothing. The remaining mites can be removed from carpets by vacuuming thoroughly.
Can Relief Be Found Without a Prescription?
As previously mentioned, it can be challenging to fully recover from scabies without proper medical treatment. Special lotions designed to kill the mites are usually prescribed, and these medications must be taken as directed. That said, many individuals prefer to try homeopathic treatment as opposed to using a prescription. When homeopathic treatment is preferred, EMUAID® First Aid Ointment may be able to help by relieving the intense itch associated with scabies.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that scabies can affect anyone. For those who have never been infected, it can take a month or more for the first symptoms to manifest, yet the individual in question is contagious the entire time.
Typically, precipitation medications are required, but homeopathic treatment may also help. In any case, it’s imperative that the patient choose wisely and then use the chosen medication as directed. Last but certainly not least, anyone else who has been in close body contact with an infected person will likely need to undergo treatment as well. The same rule of thumb also applies to people living in the same household. All patients should be treated simultaneously for best results.
Author Unknown. Scabies Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from ttps://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/gen_info/faqs.html#how_soon
Author Unknown. Scabies. (2020). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scabies/symptoms-causes/syc-20377378#:~:text=Scabies%20is%20an%20itchy%20skin,be%20especially%20strong%20at%20night.
Author Unknown. (2020). Scabies. Skinsight. Retrieved from https://www.skinsight.com/skin-conditions/adult/scabies
Homeopathic claims are not backed by scientific evidence – they are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.
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