What is Scabies?
Scabies is a dermatological disease caused by a minuscule, yet harmful parasite, known as Sarcoptes scabiei. These parasites live under the skin of the human or animal carrier, causing severe itchiness. The disease is extremely contagious, it is common all around the world and it can affect anybody at some poit.
Symptoms of Scabies
The main symptom of scabies is intense itching. Many patients have reported that the itching tends to aggravate at nighttime, but there is no medical proof to sustain this claim. Scientists have deemed this affirmation to be related to the increased sensitivity of the patient towards the sensation of itching caused by the state of inactivity and the lack of elements which may distract the attention of the patient.
Another symptom of Scabies is the appearance of rashes in the areas of the body where the skin is attacked by the parasites. Usually, the areas exposed to the parasites are the limbs, the back and the genital area.
If scabies occurs in patients who have a weakened immune system, such as HIV positive patients or elderly people, the symptoms can take a more severe form. These persons will develop rashes on a larger surface of the body and they will be usually covered by a crust. In the past, these symptoms were thought to be caused by a different infection, which was referred to as Norwegian Scabies. However, they are still the result of scabies, but the manifestation of the disease is more invasive.
How is Scabies Transmitted?
The parasites can transfer mediums very easily, and a short direct contact is sufficient for the infection to be transmitted. Touching the skin of an infected person can expose you to a scabies infection.
Even though scabies is known to be a dermatological disease, many medical treaties classify it as a sexually transmitted disease. The chances of getting infected through sexual contact are so high, that the disease can indeed be regarded as an STD.
Testing and Diagnosis for Scabies
If you fear you may have scabies, you should see your dermatologist right away and get a confirmation of the diagnosis.
If you have developed rashes on your skin, the doctor will examine them in order to see if they are related to scabies or to other parasitical or dermatological conditions. A specific test used in the diagnosis of scabies is the one which implies the application of a special solution on the affected area. When exposed to a special light, this solution will reveal any marks left by the parasites along the skin.
But, usually, the most efficient way of establishing the diagnosis of scabies is by identifying the live parasites. The doctor will use an instrument with a magnifying lens, knows as dermatoscope, which will help him observe the presence of the parasites.
Cures and Treatments for Scabies
Scabies is easy to treat and the medication available is highly efficient. For example, permethrin is a substance known to successfully cure scabies, as well as other parasitical infections. This substance is the active ingredient in many creams which require application on the affected areas. The treatment of scabies can also be based on oral drugs, but this method is usually not recommended because any kind of medication for scabies contains substances meant to kill the parasites. If ingested, these substances can be toxic to the human body just as well.
In order to reduce the itching, your doctor may prescribe you antihistaminic drugs. These are medications which usually fight against the symptoms of allergies, but are also efficient in diminishing the discomfort caused by scabies. Once you start the treatment, you will need to discard of all the bed sheets and clothes you have used during the infection, because the parasites may still be present there, putting you at the risk of re-infection.