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revised Wednesday April 22 2009
healthy sexuality
Types of Sexually Transmitted Infections ( STIs)

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Scabies

This webpage is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Scabies is a common, highly contagious skin disease caused by an almost-invisible insect called the “human itch” mite or “mange” mite.

Scabies is spread from person to person through direct skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread by using clothing, sheets, towels or furniture that has touched an infected person's skin. Scabies is considered an STI because it often spreads during sex.

Signs & Symptoms

Scabies isn’t caused by lack of cleanliness. Any person of any age can get scabies..

Most people with a scabies infection don’t show any symptoms until 4-6 weeks after infestation, when the mite burrows under the skin.

Signs and symptoms of scabies for both males and females include:

  • Intense itching, especially at night. This is usually the first sign of infection. The itching may be so intense that it wakes you up at night.
  • Skin lesions - another common symptom - between the fingers, on the elbows or on the hands and wrists. These can appear as bumps, scratches or tiny blisters, and can be wavy, threadlike, very small, slightly elevated, or greyish-white in appearance.

Other common sites of infestation are the stomach, thighs, genital areas, buttocks. In women the nipple may be infested. Scabies are rarely found above the neck, except in infants.

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Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis

Your doctor will scrape an itchy area of your skin. The sample will be sent to a lab, where it will be examined under a microscope to see if human itch mites are causing the problem.

Treatment

Treating scabies is easy and effective, through either a cream or a lotion. Both are simple to apply and have no telltale odour. While the scabies will disappear after 24 hours, the itch may last for two or three weeks.

Your sexual partners and anyone who may have had contact with the affected person should be examined and if necessary undergo the same treatment to prevent re-infection.

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Prevention

While scabies is easy to treat, you can become re-infected. On the same day you begin treatment:

  • Put any clothes, towels or linens which have come in direct contact with your skin through a hot cycle in the washing machine. (You don’t need to treat overcoats, winter jackets or hats.) and dried in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Make sure that no-one uses your towels or linens, etc. until these items have been put through the hot wash cycle.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Bathe or shower daily.
  • Wear clean clothes.
  • Avoid exchanging clothes with others.
  • Sleep in a clean bed.
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