Scabies is an infestation of the skin by a mite, scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabiei.The mites actually travel beneath the skin giving rise to burrows or rashes on the skin. Intense itching all over the body, more pronounced during nights is another symptom which points to Scabies. The itching is believed to be caused due to the movement of the mites within the skin. The itching may lead to excessive scratching which in turn may cause sores, where the likelihood of an infection is imminent.
The infection spreads more quickly in crowded areas such as hospitals etc. Scabies spreads through skin-to-skin contact or through sexual contact with an infected person. Scabies may also spread through the use of personal linen, clothes etc. used by an infected person.
A person with a weak immune system becomes an easy target for the Scabies infection. A more severe form of Scabies attacks older people and is called ‘Crusted Scabies' or 'Norwegian Scabies'. In this type of Scabies, the number of mites is enormous, say in the range of thousands and millions, while in the typical form of scabies the number may be around 10 to 15 on an average.
The mites which cause Scabies being parasites do not survive for long outside a host. At the most they may survive up to 72 hours.
Many a times we have a doubt lurking at the back of our mind as to whether Scabies infestation was passed on to us by a pet may be a dog or a cat. The fact is, it is possible that the pet was infested with Scabies (in case of animals the infestation is called' mange') and has passed on the mites to you. But, though the mites may cause itching and skin irritation, the mites which affect the animals do not survive for long on humans and may die in a couple of days, and hence not a cause for worry.
Though a person is infested with scabies the symptoms may not manifest till about 4 to 6 weeks after infestation. Thus it may be very difficult to say whether a person is affected by scabies or not unless the symptoms manifest themselves fully and diagnosis of Scabies infestation is made by examination of burrows in the skin or rashes. Confirmation of scabies infestation may be done by biopsy of skin scrapings.
The best and safest treatment for scabies is done through the application of Scabies-Killer products as directed.