Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The presence of the mite leads to intense itching in the area of its burrows. The urge to scratch may be especially strong at night.

Scabies is contagious and can spread quickly through close physical contact in a family, child care group, school class or nursing home. Because of the contagious nature of scabies, doctors often recommend treatment for entire families or contact groups to eliminate the mite.

Take heart in that scabies is readily treated. Medications applied to your skin kill the mites that cause scabies and their eggs, although you may still experience some itching for several weeks.

Symptoms Causes Complications Prevention

Scabies signs and symptoms include:

  • Itching, often severe and usually worse at night
  • Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin

The burrows or tracks typically appear in folds of your skin. Though almost any part of your body may be involved, in adults scabies is most often found:

  • Between fingers
  • In armpits
  • Around your waist
  • Along the insides of wrists
  • On your inner elbow
  • On the soles of your feet
  • Around breasts
  • Around the male genital area
  • On buttocks
  • On knees
  • On shoulder blades

In children, common sites of infestation include the:

  • Scalp
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Palms of the hands
  • Soles of the feet

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that may indicate scabies.

Many skin conditions, such as dermatitis or eczema, are associated with itching and small bumps on the skin. Your doctor can help determine the exact cause and ensure you receive proper treatment. Bathing and over-the-counter preparations won't eliminate scabies.

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