General Health Tips & News

Scabies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

By A.S. (staff writer) , published on November 03, 2022

Medicine Telehealth Health Scabies Treatment Prevention Causes Symptoms


Scabies is a transmissible skin disease caused by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). Scabies is a highly contagious epidermal invasion. The scabies mite burrows into the skin's upper layer (epidermis), where it lives and lays its eggs. The symptoms of scabies are intense itching, especially at night, and raised rash or spots. The spots may look red.

Scabies is present all across the world and affects people of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Scabies can spread quickly in crowded areas where close body and skin contact is expected.

The scabies mite is typically disseminated by direct, prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a scabies person. Although scabies is not a sexually transmitted disease, they can be spread through close contact, sharing clothing, or sharing bedding.




Signs and Symptoms of Scabies

Signs and symptoms of scabies include:

  • Itching, mainly at night: Itching is the most common symptom. The itch can be so intense that it keeps a person awake at night.

  • Rash: Many people get scabies rash. This rash causes little bumps that often form a line. The bumps can look like hives, tiny bites, knots under the skin, or pimples. Some people develop scaly patches that look like eczema.

  • Sores: Scratching the itchy rash can cause sores. An infection can develop in the sores.

  • Thick crusts on the skin: Crusts form when a person develops a severe type of scabies called crusted scabies. Another name for crusted scabies is Norwegian scabies. With so many mites burrowing in the skin, the rash and itch become severe. 




Causes of Scabies

Scabies is caused by the human itch mite. Scabies occurs when a mite burrows into the skin. The mite can enter your skin via the following routes:

  • Contact between the skins

  • Infested object contact, such as a towel, bedding, or upholstered furniture

Scabies cannot be contracted from a mite-infested animal. This scabies is only found in humans.




Can you get scabies from animals?

Animals do not spread the sort of scabies that affects humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A distinct form of scabies mite can infect your pets, resulting in a condition known as "mange."

If you come into contact with a mange-infested animal, the mites may cause transient itching and irritation of your skin. On the other hand, the mites will be unable to reproduce on your skin and will soon die.




How is scabies diagnosed?

Scabies infestations are often diagnosed based on the appearance and location of the rash, as well as the existence of burrows. Your doctor will examine your skin for mite symptoms to diagnose scabies. Your physician may also collect a skin sample to examine under a microscope. This allows your provider to check for mites or eggs.




Treatment of Scabies

Your doctor will probably instruct you to apply the medication at night when the mites are most active. You may need to treat all of your skin from the neck down. The drug can be washed off the following morning.

Make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions very carefully. You may need to repeat the topical treatment in 7 days.

Some common medications used to treat scabies include:

  • 5 percent permethrin cream

  • 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion

  • 10 percent sulfur ointment

  • 10 percent crotamiton cream

  • 1 percent Lindane Lotion





Your doctor may also prescribe additional medications to help relieve some of the bothersome symptoms associated with scabies. These medications include:

  • Antihistamines, to help control the itching

  • antibiotics to kill any infections that develop as a result of constantly scratching your skin

  • steroid creams to relieve swelling and itching

More aggressive treatment may be needed for severe or widespread scabies. An oral tablet called ivermectin  can be given to people.




Prevention to get Scabies

Scabies is prevented by avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact with an infested person or with items such as clothing or bedding used by an infested person. Scabies treatment usually is recommended for members of the same household, particularly for those who have had prolonged skin-to-skin contact.





Elston DM. "Controversies concerning the treatment of lice and scabies." J Am Acad Dermatol 2002; 46: 794-6.

Habif, Campbell, Chapman, et al. In: Dermatology DDxDeck. 2006. China. Mosby Elsevier. Card #92: "Scabies."

Jacobson CC, Abel EA. "Parasitic infestations." J Am Acad Dermatol 2007; 56: 1026-43.

Seiler JC, Keech RC, et al. “Spinosad at 0.9% in the treatment of scabies: Efficacy results from 2 multicenter, randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled studies.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2022;86(1):97-103.





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