Scabies is a contagious skin condition which is caused by tiny mites what burrow into your skin. The intense itching which is worse at night is the main symptom of scabies. Also this condition causes a skin rash on the areas where the mites have burrowed. Scabies mites are called Sarcoptes scabiei. Scabies mites feed using their mouths and front legs to burrow into the outer layer of our skin (this layer of our skin is known as epidermis) where they lay eggs. After 3 – 4 days, larvae (the baby mites) hatch and move to the surface of your skin, where they mature into adult mites. These mites want warm places such as our skin folds, around the buttock or breast creases, between the fingers and under fingernails. Scabies can also hide under rings, bracelets or straps.
Symptoms of scabies
The intense itching and a rash in areas of the body where the mites have burrowed are the main symptoms of this condition. In many cases the itching is worse at night because in this period of the day our skin is warmer. It makes take 4 – 6 weeks before the itching starts because this is how long it takes for your body to react to mite droppings. If you had a scabies infection in the past, then the symptoms of this condition will start within one or two days. This is happening because your immune system will have learned to respond to a scabies infection.
- The rash: The rash consists of tiny red spots and the scratching of your rash may cause you crusty sores to develop. Burrow marks can be found anywhere on your body. They are short (usually they are 1 cm or less), wavy, silver – colored lines on your skin. They have a black dot at one end which can be seen with a magnifying glass. In adults, burrow marks often appear in the following areas:
- Around the genital area (in men)
- Around the nipples (in women)
- The elbows
- The wrists
- The soles and the sides of the feet
- The palms of the hands
- The folds of skin between finger and toes
This rash usually is affecting the whole body but the head is not affected. These are the areas which can be particularly affected:
- Around the ankles
- The groin
- The female genital area
- The shoulder blades
- The knees
- The soles of the feet
- The lower legs
- The lower buttocks
- The inside of the elbow
- Around the waist
- The underarm area
Young children, elderly people and people who have a low immune system can also develop a rash on their neck and hand. Men usually have one or more very itchy and lumpy spots on the skin of their genitals (on their scrotum and their penis). Usually these spots are from three to ten millimeters. In infants and young children, burrow marks can appear in different parts of their bodies such as
- Soles of the feet
- Palms of the hands
These mites bite leave small and red blotches and silver – colored lines on your skin. These marks are caused by the mites burrowing into your skin. Infants who have scabies, pustules and blisters may develop on the soles of their feet and the palms of their hands. Pustules are small blisters which have pus.
Causes of scabies
The parasite Sarcoptes scabiei is the cause for scabies. These mites bite will be causing an intense itching which is thought to be caused by the immune system reaction to the mites and their faeces, eggs and saliva.
A secondary infection and crusted infection are two known complications of scabies.
- Secondary scabies: When you repeatedly scratch your itchy skin, then this is causing the scabies to break the skin’s surface. This is making you more vulnerable to developing a bacterial infection like impetigo. Many doctors are recommending antibiotics for controlling the secondary infection.
- Crusted scabies: This condition is also known as Norwegian scabies. It is affecting people with a weakened immune system. This is a more severe form of scabies where thousands or even million of these mites are present in your skin. The increase of the number of mites can cause thick and warty crusts to develop on your skin. This scabies condition is often mistaken for psoriasis.