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Scabies: It's More Than Just an Itch

Scabies: It's More Than Just an Itch

If you or someone you love is experiencing intense itching, along with a rash, scabies could be the reason. The common skin condition is caused by tiny parasitic mites, and it affects at least 200 million around the world every day — especially in crowded places like schools and daycare centers. 

Without treatment, scabies can trigger skin sores and bacterial infections that may cause significant complications. Fortunately, reliable and effective treatments for scabies are available. 

Jeffrey Klein, MD, and the team of experienced providers at HK Dermatology specialize in diagnosing and treating scabies in people of all ages at our office in San Juan Capistrano, California. 

With school back in session, now is the time to learn what you need to know about scabies. Here’s a closer look at this common condition and the ways we can help.

Scabies: An overview

Scabies is a skin infestation that causes an itchy rash. The highly contagious condition is easily passed through skin contact. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about the disease.

What causes scabies?

Tiny eight-legged mites too small to see without a microscope cause scabies. These mites can live on your skin, reproducing on the surface.

The female mites burrow into your skin to lay their eggs. The tunnels they make create blisters and bumps that itch due to your skin’s reaction to the mite, eggs, and fecal matter. 

Where do the mites live?

The mites that cause scabies can live on any body part with skin. However, they prefer certain areas more than others, including:

In infants, scabies can often appear on the head and scalp. 

Who gets scabies? 

Anyone can get scabies, but the condition is more common in tropical areas and places with a high population density. They also thrive in places that involve lots of skin contact (e.g., childcare places and nursing homes).

In addition to skin contact, you can get scabies by touching an infected person's bedding, clothes, and towels. Because the condition is so contagious, if one member of your household gets it, everyone should be checked and treated for scabies.

Symptoms of scabies

The frustrating thing about scabies is that you can have a mite infection for weeks before developing visible signs of the condition. In fact, it can take 4-6 weeks before a rash appears, though it develops faster in people who’ve been infected before. 

The first symptom of rabies is generally intense itching. The itching often gets worse at night and can interfere with sleep. 

The next symptom is a rash. It usually starts as small bumps that look like small pimples, blisters, or even scales. Because of the intense itching and scratching scabies causes, the rash often gets infected. 

Sometimes you can also see the burrow tracks of the mites on your skin. These look like tiny lines that may be skin-colored or slightly discolored in appearance. 

Keep in mind that the symptoms of scabies may come and go, but that doesn’t mean the mite infestation is gone. And, it’s possible to spread scabies even if you don’t have a rash or itching. 

The only way to get rid of scabies is through medical treatment. If you have any symptoms of scabies, schedule an appointment with our team at HK Dermatology as soon as possible.

Treating scabies

Treatment for scabies begins with an accurate diagnosis. Fortunately, our experienced providers at HK Dermatology can usually diagnose scabies without the need for invasive testing. In some cases, a simple skin swab may be used to confirm the diagnosis. 

To eliminate scabies, our team prescribes a cream that contains permethrin, an insecticide made from the chrysanthemum flower. Apply this cream at night to your skin and leave it in place for 8-14 hours. You can shower in the morning. 

In some cases, your provider may recommend a second treatment using the cream a week later. It’s normal to still have itching 2-3 weeks after using the cream. In most cases, your skin will heal within four weeks of treatment.

You’ll also want to wash all bedding and towels and any clothes you’ve worn since getting scabies. Be sure to use the hottest water possible. If you can’t wash something that could be infected, seal it in a bag for at least three days so the mites and eggs die. 

If you or someone you love has symptoms of scabies, don’t wait to seek treatment! Schedule an appointment online or over the phone today with an experienced provider at HK Dermatology in San Juan Capistrano, California.

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