Scabies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What is scabies?

Scabies refers to the infestation of the skin by tiny mites. The burrowing of these mites causes the intense itching associated with this condition.

Understanding Scabies


The tiny parasitic mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei causes scabies. The infestation spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual.  Often, all the family members in a home can be affected. Sometimes, it can be caused by sharing bedding, clothes and via sexual contact.

These mites burrow into the skin and deposit their eggs. The eggs hatch in 21 days. The resulting itchy rash is an allergic response to the mite infestation.


The symptoms include:

  • Severe itching, especially during night
  • Rashes especially in the skin folds
  • Burrow marks (tiny irregular lines) on the skin
  • Sores due to scratching


Understanding Scabies

Your doctor will carefully examine the skin for diagnosing scabies. Tests to diagnose it can include:

  • Burrow scrapings of the skin to detect mites, eggs and their larvae
  • A skin biopsy can also be done


Your doctor to treat scabies will prescribe ointments that contain insecticides like permethrin and malathion.


Following measures can be helpful:

  • Towels, bedsheets, undergarments and clothing must be washed in hot water and dried at 60oC or more temperatures.
  • Regularly vacuum your carpets, mattresses and upholstered furniture.


Scabies can lead to secondary infections due to scratching.

Next Steps

If you have been diagnosed with scabies, follow the preventive measures mentioned above and apply the medication prescribed by your doctor. Visit your doctor for follow-up visits.

Consult a top Dermatologist

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  • NHSChoices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scabies/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed 17 Jan. 17.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000830.htm. Accessed 17 Jan. 17.
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/scabies/. Accessed 17 Jan. 17.

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