Scabies – Symptoms and Causes

Scabies
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Have you ever seen a red itchy skin disease? Well, if this is happening to you you just might be having scabies. Scabies is a very itchy skin disease which is very contagious. It is caused by the infestation of the itch mite known as Sarcoptes Scabiei.

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The mites that usually infects people are the female mites and they are very little measuring a few millimetres long (about 0.3mm-0.4mm).

Scabies infestation happens worldwide and it is usually very common. They usually affect any age bracket and they are not limited. If left untreated mites, these mites can live within and under the skin for weeks and even stay there for months.

Although these mites can’t reproduce inside the skin, but what they do is that they actually reproduce outside the skin and then burrow deep into the skin and then start laying eggs. This process therefore causes an itchy skin with a red rash coloration.

The itching effect that scabies brings along is caused due to your body’s allergic reaction to the mites, the eggs produced by the mite and as well their waste products. Both Animals and Human beings are infected by scabies but the species that attack humans are different and much more dangerous than that which affects animals.

The species that affects animals can’t choose any other host to live in apart from animals, likewise the species that affects humans can’t choose any other host to live in apart from humans. The mites that causes this scabies cant live for too long without a host hence the reason why it is extremely communicable and contagious.

Sometimes however, the species that causes scabies in animals may tend to infect humans but the reaction will be mild and it becomes rarely full blown when compared to the reaction gotten from the human- infesting species.

Scabies is a highly contagious disease which can easily be spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. It can also be transmitted via the sharing of an infested clothing or an infested bedding.

Scabies is usually one of the highest skin diseases found in a very crowded place or conditions because direct skin to skin contact are unavoidable in these areas. Another condition where scabies can be easily spread is sex.

When having sex with an infected person, you will share both body contact and body fluids with the person and this will cause a spread from the infected partner to the uninfected partner.

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There are several symptoms of scabies and they include;

1. Skin rash: When a person is infected with scabies, there will be a presence of a severe skin rash which comprises of blisters and small red bumps. These skin rash however are not seen across the entire body but they are visible in some certain areas of the body.

2. The presence of thin irregular burrow tracks may be seen on the buttocks, on the web in between the fingers, on the wrists, on the back of the elbows, on the knees, may be found around the waist line or around the umbilical area, around the armpits(auxiliary folds), found on the nipples, around the calcaneal tendon, on the sides of the feet, or around the genitalia.

3. On infants or young children, scabies will be seen on the forehead, face, head, palms, necks, and/or the soles of the feet. Once a person who has never had scabies before, once he/she is infected then, it may take quite a while sometimes maybe as long as 6-8weeks before you can see the signs and symptoms.

Within that period, it is important to know that even if a person doesn’t show the signs and symptoms, the person is still a carrier and can infect others without even knowing it.

But if you have once been infected with scabies, then it will only take a few days after exposure for the signs and symptoms to begin. The very first thing you will experience when having scabies is severe itching.

The itching will become so intense and relentless. Most times, it usually becomes worse over time and its severity graduates with time. The severity of the skin itch actually differentiates it from other skin diseases such as hives and eczema.

For other skin diseases, at the onset of it the severity of the itching is at the highest and then it decreases with time but then for scabies, it’s the exact opposite. The severity of the itching increases with time and it can get to a point where sleep becomes almost impossible to achieve most especially at night when the mites are most active.

One must be careful to note that scabies doesn’t cause pain. Even while itching, you will not experience pain. Some people may even develop the severe type of scabies which is known as the Norwegian or crusted scabies.

People infected with this kind of scabies develop thick crust of skin with thousands of mites and eggs underneath it. They may also appear as thick, Gray and easy to crush under the fingers.

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This kind of scabies only develop in people who already have a weakened immune system or those with an underlying medical condition. People who have HIV/AIDS, people with cancer and are already undergoing chemotherapy, or people who use heavy steroidal drugs for treatment of some other diseases are very prone to having crusted scabies.

People who are found in the older age groups and are found in nursing homes also are very prone to contacting crusted scabies.

Diagnosis should be made by a medical practioner and once scabies is discovered, then the whole family or people living within that environment must be treated. Bedding, clothing and other linens must be washed with hot water and dried using heat.

There are some myths about scabies that we need to debunk as untrue and they include:

1. Scabies are often caught from animals. This is very untrue. Remember, we discussed that fleas gotten from animals can’t infect humans or even if they do, they won’t cause severe full blown out spread of scabies.

2. Myths have it that scabies is only a sexually transmitted disease. This is not true as we have seen. It is a contact to contact disease and not just a sexual disease.

3. Myth has it that it is only the person that is infected that needs treatment. That’s also very untrue. The family members also need to be treated because as we have already seen, even if the symptoms are not showing yet, but then one may be a carrier.

Also cloths and other linens should be washed with hot water and drying them with a very hot dryer because heat kills these mites. Things that you cant wash must be locked up in airtight places for a week or two so as to kill these mites.

4. Myth also has it that after treatment, itching can also mean scabies. This is quite untrue because even after treatment, itching may still likely occur though at a very decreased level until it finally dies off.

This doesn’t mean the scabies resurfaced but then it could be a psychological process. So it’s perfectly normal if after treatment, you may still itch for another couple of weeks.

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Once you suspect it is scabies, ensure to visit your doctor to check you up appropriately and treat you and those who may be around you when you noticed the symptoms.

Scabies
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Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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