Scabies is the common name for a parasitic infection, specifically this parasite:
These microscopic invaders not only make a meal of dead skin, like most mites, they actually burrow into human skin to create little dens for laying eggs.
Picture a field for of rabbit burrows. Now picture that field is your skin and the rabbits are these guys. This is scabies.
As you might imagine, our bodies don’t like having lots of tiny holes dug in them. The result:
Those red itchy looking patches? Those are mite burrows. And this is scabies.
Like PID and a few other infections on our list, you don’t need to have sexual contact to ge scabies, but sexual contact does make it a lot easier.
Avoid prolonged skin-to-skin contact with anyone who is infected or might be infected. Thoroughly clean the bedding, clothing, etc of anyone with crusted scabies. Unless you know that it is definitely not contagious, don’t have sex (or naked cuddling) when you or your partner has a skin condition.
Symptoms usually don’t show up for 2 to 6 weeks after a first time infection, so treatment is usually recommended for all household members and all sexual partners of the infected person. Treatment consists of lotions or creams to kill the mites. While scabbies is usually only transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, it is recommended to wash all bedding, clothing, towels, etc in water 72 degrees Farenheit or hotter to prevent reinfection.
The primary symptoms are the raised red bumps caused by the scabies burrows and prolonged itching. The itching is an allergic reaction which will often last several days or weeks after treatment. If it continues more than 2 weeks after treatment you should contact your doctor.
The most complication of scabies are skin sores from frequent scratching. These sores may become infected leading to further health problems.
People who are immunocompromised, have nerve damage that prevent them from itching, and the elderly may develop crusted scabies. Per the CDC crusted scabies “is characterized by vesicles and thick crusts over the skin that can contain many mites.” Crusted scabies is highly contagious because of the extremely large number of mites present.
As always, this post is provided for information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or a replacement for getting professional medical care.
Go back to The Long List of STIs
Learn more: Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous