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What is Scabies
Scabies is a condition of the skin characterized by extreme and uncomfortable itchiness. This is caused by tiny mites that burrow under the skin. These mites literally burrow – the sensation of needing to scratch is caused by small mites tunneling under the skin. Often this leaves red sores and rashes, and the skin will be extremely irritated by constant abrasive scratching.
How is Scabies Transmitted or Spread?
Scabies can be spread by an extended period of close personal contact, or by contact with items contaminated by Scabies. In some cases you can contract the mites from a bed or a towel, but they can only live for roughly twenty-four hours without a human host so if the incubation period has passed it's extremely unlikely for you to catch Scabies from fabrics. Therefore it falls under the ranks of “STD” due to a necessity for prolonged bare-flesh contact.
The most common complaint with Scabies is itchiness. Those infected will often have marks all over their body from the desperate use of nails to try to soothe the constant sensation of needing to relieve and itch – the scratching, actually, tends to destroy the mite burrows which only makes them create more. The agonizing itching tends to get worse at night, leading to insomnia due to an inability to get to sleep. Generally the red bumps that appear with scabies can be found behind the elbows and knees, around the waist and belly button, around nipples and genitals, and the buttocks.
How to Prevent Scabies
Avoiding intercourse with someone showing symptoms of Scabies is the best way to prevent transmission. Unfortunately a condom alone won't work in this case. It's also important to adhere to good hygienic practices.
Abstinence is the best way to prevent the transmission of any sexually transmitted disease. If you are sexually active, condoms are a helpful preventative measure if used correctly each time. The risk of infection for any STD, including Scabies, is significantly lowered if you both you and your partner have been tested, and are only having sex with each other. People who engage in risky sexual behavior, or have sex with people they don't know very well, are at a much greater risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases. People who regularly use drugs and alcohol are at a higher risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including Scabies, because they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.
Please read more about STD transmission and prevention here.
How to Treat or Cure Scabies?
Fortunately, for as agitating as Scabies may be, they're curable. One common treatment is the use of a medication such as Permethrin, a cream that is applied to the body and typically takes a week to work. Ivermectin has been used to fight Scabies, but is not FDA approved for that use and has shown a higher incidence of side-effects with a lower incidence of eradication unlike Permethrin.
Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are often taken to help lessen the agonizing itching.
It's also necessary to wash all blankets and sheets in hot water, and the same can be done with clothing but isn't necessary as Scabies will not survive long enough, generally, to reinfect you.
Also, be sure to treat all family members and bedmates to be sure the Scabies don't keep leaping from person to person.
The Scabies should be “cured” within one week, sometimes two. Any longer than that without a dramatic relief means you need to speak to your doctor about an alternative diagnosis.
What should I expect from my doctor?
Both men and women can expect the same response from their doctor. The health care professional may take a scraping of skin, and either s/he or a qualified technician will examine it under a microscope. Since Scabies mites are actually sometimes visible to the naked eye, if you do have an infection it's usually easy to catch. In some cases, a doctor may recognize the illness just from the symptoms and characteristic red bumps. In that case he or she may immediately decide to discuss possible methods for eradication with you.