• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Scabies is a parasitic infection of the skin. It occurs throughout the world, but is particularly problematic in areas of poor sanitation, overcrowding, and social disruption, and is endemic in many resource‐poor countries. The global prevalence of scabies is estimated at 300 million cases, but the level of infection varies between countries and communities. The female mite burrows into the skin t... more

PubMed Health. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Scabies

Sarcoptes scabiei

Last reviewed: January 23, 2014.

Scabies is an easily spread skin disease caused by a very small type of mite.

Causes

Scabies is found among people of all groups and ages around the world.

  • Scabies spread by skin-to-skin contact with another person who has scabies.
  • Less often it can be spread by sharing clothes or bedding. Sometimes whole families are affected.

Outbreaks of scabies are more common in nursing homes, nursing facilities, college dorms, and child care centers.

The mites that cause scabies burrow into the skin and lay their eggs. This forms a burrow that looks like a pencil mark. Eggs hatch in 21 days. The itchy rash is an allergic response to the mite.

Pets and animals cannot spread human scabies. It is also not very likely for scabies to be spread by:

  • A swimming pool
  • Contact with the towels, bedding, and clothing of someone who has scabies, unless the person has what is called "crusted scabies"

Symptoms

  • Itching, most commonly at night
  • Rashes, mostly between the fingers
  • Sores (abrasions) on the skin from scratching and digging
  • Thin, pencil-mark lines on the skin

Mites may be more widespread on a baby's skin, causing pimples over the trunk, or small blisters over the palms and soles.

  • In young children, the infection may be on the head, neck, shoulders, palms, and soles of feet. 
  • In older children and adults, the infection may be on the hands, wrists, genitals, and abdomen.

Exams and Tests

The doctor will examine your skin for signs of scabies. The doctor will look at scrapings taken from a burrow to look for the mites. A skin biopsy can also be done.

Treatment

HOME CARE

  • Before treatment, wash underwear, towels, and sleepwear in hot water. Items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned can be decontaminated by removing from any body contact for at least 72 hours.
  • Vacuum the carpets and upholstered furniture.
  • Use calamine lotion and soak in a cool bath to ease itching.
  • Take an oral antihistamine if your doctor recommends it for very bad itching.

MEDICINES FROM YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER

The whole family or sexual partners of infected people should be treated, even if they do not have symptoms.

Creams prescribed by your health care provider are needed to treat scabies.

Apply the medicine all over your body. Creams may be used as a one-time treatment tor they may be repeated in 1 week. 

For hard to treat cases, your health care provider may also prescribe a pill known as Ivermectin.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

Itching may continue for 2 weeks or more after treatment begins. It will disappear if you follow your health care provider's treatment plan.

Most cases of scabies can be cured without any long-term problems. A severe case with a lot of scaling or crusting may be a sign that the person has a disease such as HIV.

Possible Complications

Intense scratching can cause a secondary skin infection, such as impetigo.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have symptoms of scabies
  • A person you have been in close contact with has been diagnosed with scabies

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Atlanta, Ga; November 2, 2010. [online] Accessed January 23, 2014.
  2. Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 15.
  3. Diaz JH. Scabies. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009:chap 294.

Review Date: 1/23/2014.

Reviewed by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Interventions for preventing the spread of infestation in close contacts of people with scabiesInterventions for preventing the spread of infestation in close contacts of people with scabies
    Scabies is a common parasitic infection. It is caused by a mite, Sarcoptes scabiei variety hominis, also known as the human itch mite, which depends on humans to survive. Crusted scabies (or Norwegian scabies) is caused by the same mite, but tends to occur in people whose immune system is not working so well, such as transplant patients on immunosuppressive therapy, people who misuse alcohol, or other debilitated people. Scabies infection spreads from person to person by skin contact. This is why it is more prevalent in areas with poor sanitation or overcrowding. In high‐income countries it tends to spread between family contacts, between people in residential care, or between patients and staff in hospitals. People may be infected with these mites for several weeks before developing symptoms. During this time it is possible to spread the infection to other people. Consequently people who are in contact with suspected cases of scabies infection are often given preventative treatments in an attempt to stop the development of symptoms. Preventive treatment also aims to prevent further spread of the infection and to prevent the person who was the source of infection from getting reinfected. This review is important, as before conducting this review we were unable to say if using preventive treatment helps or not.
See all (2) ...

Figures

  • Scabies rash and excoriation on the hand.
    Scabies mite, photomicrograph.
    Scabies mite, photomicrograph of the stool.
    Scabies mite, photomicrograph.
    Scabies mite, photomicrograph.
    Scabies mite, eggs, and stool photomicrograph.

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...

MedlinePlus.gov links to free, reliable, up-to-date health information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other trusted health organizations.

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...