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What is Scabies ?

What is scabies - find out information from this page on scabies in humans, scabies causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. For information on natural remedies for scabies, please visit this page.

Scabies is an itchy, contagious skin condition caused by a tiny, eight-legged burrowing parasite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites are very tiny - The length of each mite is approximately one third of a millimeter and the diameter about one tenth of a millimeter.

The scabie mites burrow into the skin to lay eggs. Several days later, the eggs hatch and the mites start moving. Each mite has a lifespan of approximately 24 to 36 hours. The host is usually infected with between 10 and 20 mites.

The most commonly affected parts of the body are the hands (between fingers), along the inside of the wrists, in the armpits, on the knees and ankles, on the soles of feet, around the breasts and nipples, and male genitalia.

Scabies causes intense itching and scratching, especially at night which results in a rash.

Scabies is highly contagious and is spread by direct skin contact, sexual contact, or by sharing of items, such as clothing or other household articles like bed linen, blankets, pillows, etc. It can affect both children and adults.

If a person is infected, very often other household members, sexual partners, and people who are in close contact with the person will also be infected. It is also common in congested and overcrowded areas such as hospitals and nursing facilities.

What is Scabies - Scabies Symptoms

Scabies symptoms include:
  • Intense itching resulting in incessant scratching, usually worse at night.
  • Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or red bumps on the skin.


What is Scabies - Scabies Causes

As mentioned above, scabies in human is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The female mite burrows just beneath the skin and produces a tunnel in which it lays eggs which hatch in 21 days. The new mites then find their way to the surface of the skin, where they mature and can spread to other areas of the body or to other people.

The itching of scabies is the result of an allergic reaction triggered by the body to the mites, their eggs and their waste.

The mite that causes scabies in humans is different from mites that cause scabies in dogs and cats. Mites are generally very sensitive to the environment and can only survive on their own specific hosts. We may develop a temporary skin reaction from contact with pets that have scabies, but are unlikely to develop full-blown scabies from such mites.


What is Scabies - Diagnosis of Scabies

As scabies symptoms resemble those of other skin conditions such as skin rashes, eczema, etc., it is important to visit a doctor if you develop scabies-like symptoms to get a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will look at your skin for signs of mites, including the characteristic burrows. Skin scrapings will also be collected and viewed under a microscope to make a positive diagnosis by determining the presence of mites or their eggs.

Related Topics

Natural Remedies for Scabies
Norwegian Scabies


Duke, J.A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2002). (

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