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Could That Itch Be Scabies?

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Scabies. The very word sounds itchy and uncomfortable—definitely not a problem you want to have. But if you have an itch that just won’t go away, and in fact seems to be getting worse, the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei may indeed be the culprit.

Scabies. It sounds potentially embarrassing too—the kind of thing that makes you want to stick your head in the sand. But if left untreated, scabies only get worse.

Often referred to as mites, scabies infest the top layer of the skin, says the American Social Health Association (ASHA). They are too small to be seen by the human eye, but you may be able to detect signs of the burrows the females make in order to reproduce. These tunnels show up as little lines under the surface of your skin in meandering patterns. Infestations occur most often where the environment is inviting—between the fingers and toes and in the folds of skin around your elbows, knees, buttocks, waist, abdomen, genitals and breasts. In severe or rare cases, scabies can infest the skin of your neck, face and even feet.

The parasite is contagious—passed from one person to another by close physical contact. A sexual partner is often, but not necessarily, the origin. You can also get scabies from prolonged contact with anyone, for instance someone you hold hands with, and from infested linens, shared clothing and so on.

The main symptom of scabies is itching. Itching that gradually gets more urgent and may seem worse at night, as the ASHA relates at www.ashahstd.org. You may also notice burrows, rashes or other evidence of irritation on your skin.

If you think you might have scabies, a trip to the doctor is in order. There are many different tests a physician may conduct to determine whether you have the parasite. Your doctor may take shavings or scrapings of your skin and evaluate them under a microscope. Or, you may have a textbook case that an experienced doctor can spot without much testing at all.

Treatment will most likely involve a cream or lotion containing a chemical that will kill the mites.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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