Have you ever heard of ectoparasitic infections? Not many people have. The term refers to infections resulting from a parasitic infestation, most often through sexual contact.
Ectoparasitic infections are caused by two different parasites - pubic lice and mites. To learn more about public lice (also known as crab lice) check out this earlier article on the topic. Since they have already been discussed, this article will focus mostly on mites.
Mites cause a condition known as scabies, which is the appearance of a large number of small red bumps on the skin. These bumps are actually the places where mites have buried themselves into the skin, although you need a magnifying glass or microscope to see an actual mite. The red bumps are very itchy due to the movement of the mites within them and a large rash will soon break out as an allergic reaction.
Of course, if scabies has been transmitted during sexual contact the primary site of itching will be the thighs, abdomen, and pubic region. The hands and wrists are also often affected in adult cases. The burning sensation usually worsens at night and can result in bloody sores if too much scratching occurs.
When mites burrow under the skin they also lay eggs which hatch in 21 days. This can be even more irritating to the skin. Deeply burrowed mites can be identified by their pencil mark appearance.
On its own, scabies is not an overly dangerous illness, although the infection of open sores may lead to more serious conditions like impetigo. The failure to recover from scabies may indicate a larger health problem, such as HIV.
Scabies is diagnosed by taking a skin scraping of the affected area. It is then treated through medicated creams such as permethrin 5%, benzyl benzoate, and sulfur in petrolatum. An oral medication may be prescribed for particularly severe cases.
During treatment for ectoparasitic infections it is important to wash bedding and clothes in hot water and avoid skin-to-skin contact with other individuals. Soothe itching with the use of cool water and calamine lotion. Ectoparasitic infections can only be prevented by avoiding contact with infected individuals, so choose your bedmates and sexual partners wisely.