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Scabies: Overview


What is scabies?

A mite causes this common skin condition. Called the human itch mite, this eight-legged bug is so small that you cannot see it on the skin. People get scabies when the mite burrows into the top layer of skin to live and feed. When the skin reacts to the mite, an extremely itchy rash develops.

Human itch mite

This female mite, shown magnified 100 times, is full of eggs. She will burrow into human skin to lay her eggs.

This mite can travel from the infected person to another person. Most people get scabies from direct, skin-to-skin contact. Less often, people pick up mites from infested items such as bedding, clothes, and furniture. The mite can survive for about three to four days without being on a human. Worldwide, there are millions of cases of scabies each year.

Anyone can get scabies. It strikes people of all ages, races, and income levels. People who are very clean and neat can get scabies. It tends to spread easily in nursing homes and extended-care facilities. The good news is that a dermatologist can successfully diagnose and treat scabies. With today’s treatments, scabies need only cause short-term distress.


Image
Image used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;50:819-42)

References
Chosidow O. “Clinical practices. Scabies.” N Engl J Med 2006; 354: 1718-27.

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.

Steen CJ, Carbonaro PA, Schwartz RA. “Arthropods in dermatology.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2004; 50: 819 42, quiz 42-4.

Stone SP, Goldfarb JN, et al. “Scabies, other mites, and pediculosis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:2019-2032.

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