What is scabies?

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Scabies refers to a skin disease characterized by severe itching and pimple-like nodules, redness, and bumps in the skin. Many children get infected with scabies but even healthy adults may also get this very itchy and irritating skin disease. The main culprit behind scabies is the parasite mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. This particular parasite burrows itself in the skin and may take a few weeks before itching and other symptoms become apparent. Most commonly affected areas of this skin disease are the inner parts of the wrist, the elbows and knees, and the webbing between toes and fingers.

People will get scabies mostly from skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Those who have frequent sexual relations with another infected person may also easily get this skin disease. Diagnosis of scabies is typically done through the scraping technique. In this technique, doctors will get a sample of the dead skin cells in the rash area through scraping. The dead skin cells will then be studied under the microscope to check if the parasite mite is indeed present. In some cases, dropping some kind of ink on the skin rash or burrow may also be done to check if a person has scabies.

The skin rash and itching involved in scabies is not expected to go away on its own if left untreated. Most doctors prescribe a special ointment to kill the parasite mites. Other lotions and creams may also be necessary to help the healing of the skin rash. In some cases, doctors may also prescribe oral anti-histamines to help relieve the itchiness and skin discomfort. Duration of treatment may be as quick as 2 weeks but the allergic reaction to mite burrowing in the skin may take at least 4 weeks to react to the skin creams and ointments. Dosage and frequency of these medications will also depend upon the age of the patient and the severity of the skin disease.

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