What is it?
Scabies is a common, extremely itchy rash caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These parasites eat the outer (epidermal) layer of the skin cannot be seen with the naked eye although their tiny burrows might be visible. When a person is initially infected it can take up to 8 weeks before the itching begins as it takes a while for the body to develop an allergic reaction to the mite.
Scabies mites tend to favour warm, moist areas such as the external genitalia, beneath the breasts, between the buttock folds, webs of the fingers or toes and under the fingernails. However, they can be found residing anywhere on the body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, though the face and neck are usually spared. People become infected with the mites either via prolonged direct skin contact with someone who is already infected or, much less commonly, by using infested bath towels, clothing or bedding. Pets do not carry the mites that infect humans and therefore spread from animals to humans does not occur.
What does it look like?
Multiple tiny red insect bites in a row are the typical finding with scabies. The superficial burrows created by the mites appear as small curves or lines. Due to the excessive itchiness, scaly inflamed scratch marks may also become visible, and scabies infestation often resembles severe eczema (see image).
How might it affect me?
Intense itching, particularly at night and in warm environments, is the main complaint with this condition. Though there are generally no serious health consequences of uncomplicated scabies, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible, otherwise symptoms can persist for months or even years.
A rare, highly-contagious, form of the diease referred to as crusted or Norwegian scabies, which involves extensive areas of the body being infested with a large number of mites can affect those whose natural defence mechanisms are weakened such as people who have cancer or AIDS.
Did you know?
Most moles are not a cause for concern and present a purely cosmetic problem. However, moles can occasionally undergo changes that lead to them becoming cancerous.
Acne is a common condition characterised by blackheads, whiteheads and cysts. It affects the greasy and hair-bearing areas such as the face, chest and back.