The condition can strike anyone of any race or age, regardless of personal hygiene. The good news is that with better detection methods and treatments, scabies does not need to cause more than temporary distress.
Human scabies is almost always caught from another person by close contact. Everyone is susceptible. Scabies is not a condition only of low-income families and neglected children although it is more often seen in crowded living conditions with poor hygiene.
Attracted to warmth and odor, the female mite burrows into the skin, lays eggs and produces toxins that cause allergic reactions. Larvae, or newly hatched mites, travel to the skin surface, lying in shallow pockets where they will develop into adult mites. If the mite is scratched off the skin, it can live in bedding for up to 24 hours or more. It may take up to a month before a person will notice the itching, especially in people with good hygiene and who bathe regularly.
The earliest and most common symptom of scabies is itching, especially at night. Little red bumps like hives, tiny bites or pimples appear. In more advanced cases, the skin may be crusty or scaly. Scabies prefers warmer sites on the skin, such as skin folds where clothing is tight, between the fingers or under the nails, on the elbows or wrists, the buttocks or belt line, around the nipples, and on the penis.
Your dermatologist will do a thorough head-to-toe examination in good lighting, with careful attention to skin crevices. Many cases of scabies can be diagnosed by your dermatologist with special tests. To confirm scabies, your dermatologist can perform a painless test that involves applying a drop of oil to the suspected lesion. The site is then scraped and transferred to a glass slide, which is examined under a microscope. A diagnosis is made by finding scabies mites or their eggs. Treatment needs to be done on every person who has had contact with the affected patient; however, pets do not need to be treated.