All About Scabies

All About Scabies | Spectrum Dermatology, Scottsdale

All About Scabies

Scabies is a medical condition that may be confused as a “simple rash” by non-professionals, which is a reminder of why it’s so important to always see your dermatologist when you notice any change in your skin. Scabies is very itchy and caused by a type of burrowing mite (Sarcoptes scabiei), and Spectrum Dermatology can help you quickly treat this condition so the intense urge to scratch can be alleviated. Even the most ardent of anti-scratchers often scratch scabies sites in their sleep, which can cause lacerations, bleeding, scarring, and the opportunity for infection.

Scabies is also highly contagious, and it’s very common for it to spread to everyone in the home, class, or childcare group. Since it is so contagious, it is often recommended that everyone in the home (or contact group) be treated if even one person is diagnosed with scabies. The good news is that scabies is readily treated with topical medication that destroys both the mites and their eggs. This treatment is only available by prescription.

However, itching can linger for days or weeks after an effective treatment. For those who struggle with the need to itch, additional treatments are available in order to minimize the itchiness.

Do I Have Scabies?

Scabies looks like a rash, and there are so many types of rashes that it is nearly impossible for a non-professional to make a correct diagnosis. However, common symptom of scabies includes severe itching that gets worse at night as well as thin, asymmetrical burrowing tracks that look like very small blisters. The mites like to burrow into folds of the skin, so although they can technically burrow anywhere you will most likely find scabies tracks between fingers and toes, in the armpits, inside the wrists or elbows, behind the knees, in the crease of the breasts, and around the buttocks and genital area.

For those who have never had scabies, it can take up to six weeks for symptoms to appear. If you have had scabies in the past, symptoms typically develop faster (just a few days after burrowing). However, keep in mind that you are still able to spread the mites even if you are asymptomatic.

Talking to Your Doctor About Scabies

Scabies is regularly misdiagnosed by non-professionals as eczema and dermatitis (among many other conditions). Only your doctor can determine the type and cause of a skin condition like scabies. Using an over-the-counter anti-itch medication may be helpful to some degree, but it does not address the core cause of scabies: the mites.

Many patients consider it fortunate that the mites are so tiny that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. These insects don’t burrow very deep into the skin, just enough to make small tunnels where they can move and deposit eggs. When the larvae hatch, they make their way to the skin’s surface and begin to spread. The itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites themselves, the eggs, and their waste. Since the mites live on or close to the skin’s surface, this makes scabies spreadable by something as simple as sharing clothing or bedding.

Why Treating Scabies is Important

The mites themselves usually aren’t very dangerous to humans, but rather it’s the itching that is a concern. Vigorous scratching lacerates the skin, opening it up to infection like impetigo. This infection is often caused by staph (staphylococci) and sometimes strep (streptococci) bacteria. There’s also a more aggressive type of scabies, crusted scabies, that can affect those with weakened immune systems, older patients, and those who are very ill.

Also known as Norwegian scabies, crusted scabies is just what it sounds like but it affects much larger areas. This form of scabies is even more contagious and is more difficult to treat. No matter what kind of scabies you have or suspect you have, fast treatment is critical.

In addition to dermatological treatment, you should also thoroughly clean all clothes and linen, drying these items on a high heat. The mites can also be exterminated by putting items you can’t wash or dryclean in a sealed bag for a minimum of two weeks. Cleaning the home is just as important as treating your skin. If you have any type of skin rash or concern, book an appointment online today with Spectrum Dermatology.