Is scabies an STD? Scabies is an itchy skin condition. The cause is the human’s skin infestation by the itch mite. Here what you need to know.
Scabies is a condition that affects over 300 million people every year. It is a global public health problem that affects persons of all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups. Yet, the most affected group is children and sexually active individuals.
This article will uncover answers to some of the most common questions like what causes it, its treatment, and many more. Before reaching that point, there will be brief explanations about basic concepts to understand the disease.
By reading this article, you will obtain critical insights about Scabies, its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. Therefore, please continue reading to get pearls on this specific topic at the hands of a Doctor.
What Causes Scabies?
Scabies is a parasitic infection whose causal agent is the host-specific mite Sarcoptes scabiei hominis, an obligate human parasite. The adult female scabies mite burrows into the human skin’s upper layer where they live and deposit their eggs. Moreover, humans are the source of infestation; animals do not spread human scabies.
There are reports that races of mites found on animals may cause an infestation in humans. These are infestations that are self-limited in humans with a temporary itchy rash. Still, the parasite does not multiply on the human host. The mite that causes human scabies is microscopic, which means it cannot be seen at simple sight. The female mite, after burrowing beneath the skin, carves a tunnel where it deposits eggs.
After the female deposits its eggs, these eggs hatch, and the mite work their way to the surface again. Later these mites mature and can spread to other areas of the skin or even the skin of other people. The skin rash is a product of an allergic reaction from the body to the eggs, the mites, and their wastes.
The transmission of the disease is from human to human. It does not use animals as a transport or a carrier of the infection.
Close physical contact between an infected person and a non-infected person may spread the mites. Also, but less often, the sharing of clothing or bedding can also spread the mites. Mites infesting beds can give the false impression of a sexually transmitted infection. The symptoms also give the impression of STD symptoms as the skin rash appears in folds of skin which are found in the genital area and the buttocks. Nonetheless, people should always have STD testing when having skin rash on the genital area after sexual contact.
What is the life cycle of a scabies mite?
The life cycle of the Sarcoptes scabiei has four stages in its life cycle. It goes from egg to larva, later to nymph, and finally the adult. Nonetheless, symptoms usually appear after 4 to 8 weeks from the initial exposure. This period of time receives the name of the incubation period. It is important to note that an infested person within this time can spread the disease even if they do not show or have any symptoms.
The cycle begins when the adult females deposit their eggs as they burrow beneath the skin. Usually, females can deposit from 2 to 3 eggs per day. The eggs are microscopic, with a length of 0.10 to 0.15 mm. Eggs hatch after 3 to 4 days, releasing larvae which will migrate to the skin surface. Later the larvae burrow into the intact stratum corneum (a layer of the skin), constructing short burrows which are almost invisible that receive the name of molting pouches.
Later, the larvae molt after 3 to 4 days, becoming a nymph. Larvae have three legs, while Nymphs have four. Nymphs molt again into a more extensive version before losing into adults. Both of these forms can be found either in the molting pouches or hair follicles. After molting into their adult form, the mating occurs when the male goes into the female’s molting pouch.
Mating occurs only once, and the female becomes fertile for the rest of her life. This allows her to lay eggs during the rest of her life (approximately 1 to 2 months). After mating, females leave their molting pouches and go to the superficial layer of the skin. While doing this, females make their characteristic serpentine burrow laying eggs in the process. Under favorable conditions, approximately 10% of the eggs give rise to adult mites.
What are the risk factors for it?
Scabies is a disease that can pass easily from person to person. A person who carries the parasite becomes a carrier of the disease. People within his or her household and sexual partners are at higher risk of contracting this disease.
It does not distinguish social classes or races. Scabies is a common condition that can be found worldwide and spread quickly in conditions where there are high conglomerates of people.
Being in conditions where close contact of the skin and bodies exists is considered a risk factor. Certain places as well like nursing homes, extended care facilities, and prisons, are often sites of scabies outbreaks. The following list includes the most common risk factors for developing scabies.
- Young Age: Younger people and children are more likely to develop this disease than adults.
- Presence of many children in the household: Children are more likely to carry the infection. They are also more likely to infect other persons within the house. Of course, if there are more children, the risk increases.
- Illiteracy: People from lower social classes are likely to develop this disease as they are not fully aware of it. Illiterate people have no way for reading or having a discerning thought that may prevent this condition.
- Low Family Income: By having a low family income, the risk of developing this disease increases as there are possibilities of not having enough capital to clean or having coverage of basic needs.
- Poor housing: Failing to have a clean house and a clean environment may predispose or increase this condition’s risk.
- Sharing clothes and towels: Sharing personal objects that are in direct contact with the skin may increase the risk of developing this condition.
- Irregular use of showers: Failing to shower regularly may increase the risk of developing scabies.
Is scabies an STD? How is scabies sexually transmitted?
Scabies is a condition that can be classified as a skin condition and a sexually transmitted disease. Both terms may apply to the condition. However, it depends on how it was transmitted.
The most common way for transmission is close contact with another person; this includes a handshake, a slight touch in a crowded place, among many others, although it is not very common. The most common way for transmission is spending a considerable amount of time with people who have the infection. It can also be spread by lying on a bed infested with scabies or sharing towels and clothes.
Nonetheless, Scabies can also be transmitted through sexual activity, which is why it enters the classification of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The scabies parasite likes to dwell into the skin folds like armpits, elbows, fingers, and genital area.
Transmission is more likely when partners spend the night together than during a brief sexual encounter.
Mites can be difficult to identify and may be confused with pubic lice due to itching in the genital area. To get scabies through sex, it does not matter if the man uses barrier methods. It is a skin condition, and being in contact with the pelvis is more than enough.
What are scabies symptoms and signs?
Developing symptoms may take up to 6 weeks if it is the first time the person gets the infection. However, suppose a person has had scabies before. In that case, symptoms may appear much sooner than before, taking up to four days after exposure.
The most common symptoms of a skin condition like scabies are itching and skin rash. The following are caused by an allergic reaction to the wastes of these parasites within the skin.
Among the early symptoms of scabies is severe itching, which is also known as pruritus at night. Night pruritus is the earliest and the most common symptom of scabies. There is also pimple-like itchy scabies rash which is also very common.
Among the places within the body that may be affected by the scabies infestation are the following:
- Between the fingers
- Around the waist
- Along the insides of the wrists
- On the inner elbows
- On the soles of the feet
- Penis or around the genital male area
- Nipples or around the breasts
- On the buttocks
- On the knees
- Around the shoulder blades
Head, face, neck, palms, and soles may be involved in the infection. Nevertheless, it is more common in infants and very young children. Adults and older children usually do not develop symptoms in these places.
What do scabies bites look like?
Although they cannot be seen in the first weeks of the infestation, scabies bites are a pimple-like skin condition. The skin becomes red around the place in which the female burrows, and it grows a little bit in size. Also, there are few prolongations of it. These are the tunnels in which the female goes through the skin’s superficial layer, looking for another place. These tiny burrows can also be seen sometimes. They appear as tiny raised and crooked or serpiginous skin-colored lines on the skin surface.
Nonetheless, in the average adult, they often have on average 10 to 15 mites always coexisting as long as they have the infection, of course. The tiny pimple-like rash is widespread, and it is visible at plain sight. On the other hand, the burrows and little tunnels’ appearance can be very rare; they also tend to appear on the skin’s folds, like between the fingers, inner elbows, and wrists.
Skin appears to be red in the places with the lesions. This is due to the allergic reaction per se, which causes as well itchiness and, in some cases, sores.
Scabies has another type of presentation, Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies. This is a complication of regular scabies. It affects people who are immunocompromised (i.e., HIV infection) or persons with conditions that prevent them from itching or scratching (overall neurologic problems). These lesions are bigger than the common scabies lesion and have thick crusts over the skin.
What are the complications of scabies?
Complications of scabies come after the patient vigorously scratches the skin lesions. Scratching of these lesions may break the skin and leave an open door for opportunistic and secondary infections. These infections can be of bacterial origin. The most common bacterial agents are Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. Among the common complications are bacterial infections like impetigo and cellulitis. The Staphylococcus bacteria cause impetigo.
Moreover, S pyogenes can lead to infections and conditions like poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic renal failure, and even rheumatic fever. Lesions that are infected with these bacteria can also lead to conditions like pyelonephritis, abscesses, pyogenic pneumonia, sepsis, and death. People who develop scabies also tend to be more likely to develop chronic kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease.
Alongside the secondary bacterial infections, there is another type of scabies that receives the name of Norweigan Scabies or Crusted Scabies. People usually affected by this condition are the following:
- People with health conditions that affect their immune system like HIV or leukemia.
- Older people in nursing homes.
- People who are very ill and are at nursing facilities or hospitals.
- People who suffer from conditions that prevent them from itching and scratching like spinal cord injury or paralysis.
This condition has a higher rate of mortality because of the higher frequency of secondary bacterial infections, which result in sepsis. These patients do not show the usual signs and symptoms of the disease. Their lesions are vesicles (blisters) and thick crusts over the skin, which contain many mites. These patients have a large number of mites within them, as much as 2 million mites on them. The average patient has from 10 to 15 mites on them.
How can it be diagnosed?
To make a diagnosis of Scabies, a doctor can use only the clinical findings. The doctor will examine the skin, looking for signs of mites and the characteristic burrows. If a doctor finds a burrow, he or she will take a scraping of that area. This will enable the doctor to see the skin under the microscope and effectively tell if there are mites and/or their eggs.
Also, the doctor will perform a series of questions to make a full history to make a diagnosis assertively. He or she will evaluate the symptoms, how long do they last, since when the patient has them, among many others. These questions also include the family and the household in order to prevent the spreading of the disease and avoid a scabies outbreak.
What can be mistaken for scabies?
Scabies has a number of differential diagnosis as many diseases may confuse the physician due to their similarities. These diseases or conditions also run with pimple-like lesions on the skin. Among the group that has similarities are some STD’s including viral STDs, although not all of them apply.
The following list includes some of the diseases that can be mistaken for scabies:
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Bedbug bites
- Dermatitis Herpetiformis
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Irritant contact dermatitis
- Lichen planus
Certain diseases within the list belong to sexually transmitted diseases like Syphilis and Lice. However, suppose there is the presence of genital scabies. In that case, patients may fear that it is a disease like herpes or genital herpes, genital warts like the ones in HPV, molluscum contagiosum, among others. Patients should remain calm when presenting symptoms and consult their doctor.
Although scabies can be listed as a sexually transmitted disease, there are diseases from this list that do not apply. For example, pelvic inflammatory disease, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, lymphogranuloma venereum, and chlamydia. These diseases have no similarity with scabies or genital scabies.
Sexual health is an integral part of our overall health, which is why people should concern themselves a little bit more about it. It is essential to learn to differentiate between these diseases; however, it will not replace the doctor’s consult. A vaginal discharge does not happen in sexually transmitted infections like Scabies, so that is a good start point for patients to differentiate it from other diseases.
What is the treatment for Scabies?
To eliminate the infestation involves the use of medications. It is important to know that these medications receive the name of scabicides and are available only with a doctor’s prescription. Doctors will ask their patients to apply creams or lotions to the whole body. This means from the neck to the tip of the toes.
After doing this, he or she will ask to leave the medication for at least 8 to 10 hours to ensure killing the mites. Sometimes it will require a second application of the lotion to fully kill the mites if the signs and symptoms appear again. Doctors will also recommend for the family members within the household to treat themselves as well.
Among the most common medications for treating scabies are the following:
- Permethrin Cream: It is a cream that kills scabies mites and their eggs. It is a safe medication for adults, pregnant women, and children over two months old. It will require two applications or more, each about a week apart, to fully eliminate mites.
- Ivermectin: It is an oral antiparasitic agent that works for worm infestations. Nonetheless, doctors may indicate this medication for people who have immune systems that do not work properly. This also includes people who suffer from crusted scabies and people who do not respond to lotions and creams. It is not recommended for pregnant women and children who weigh under 15 Kilograms.
- Crotamiton: It is a lotion that is applied once a day for two days. However, there are several reports in which this treatment option does not work.
It is also essential to know that even though these medications kill mites and their eggs, the itching will not stop entirely for several weeks.
How can it be prevented?
Prevention of scabies can be very simple, but people should be aware of scabies as a condition. People should avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with infested persons or things like clothing and beds used by these people. Suppose anyone in your direct surrounding (household) suffers from this disease. In that case, all of the people that live within the same household should receive treatment.
The following recommendations may help to eradicate the disease from the household.
- Clean all clothes and linen: People should identify all clothes, towels, and beddings that have been in direct contact with the infested person for the last three days. Later, people should use hot and soapy water to clean these items. After clean them, dry them with high heat as these parasites cannot stand high temperatures.
- Starve the mites: Another effective method is to collect all the items that have been in contact with the infested person and seal them in a bag for a couple of weeks. After a few days without food, these mites die.
Of course, another important side of prevention is that if someone knows that another person has this disease, avoid every possible direct contact with the patient’s skin, especially if there is a history of previous scabies infections.
How do you get scabies out of a mattress?
Getting rid of scabies out of a mattress can be very simple, and there are a couple of methods that can be effective. To be sure, people should try a couple of them and not stick with just one.
To get scabies out of the mattress, it is important to dry clean the entire bedding first. Mites can die approximately after three days without eating or receiving food, so that’s the first method. To stop using the bed after receiving treatment for a couple of days.
Another effective method is ironing the bed as the heat can kill the mites. Ironing the bed is an effective method that has been used in many houses, and it works. There are also recommendations in which spraying and disinfecting the mattress also works. Getting rid of scabies from a mattress can be difficult, but using these recommendations might just do the trick.
How long is someone with scabies contagious?
It depends because the symptoms may take even two months to appear. During that time, the patient will not know that he or she suffers from scabies. It will also depend on how quickly the person gets treatment after the beginning of symptoms.
Generally, a person can be contagious with scabies for two months and even without them knowing. When the patient does not have any symptoms, he or she will still be contagious. Scabies mites can live as long as 1 to 2 months on a person. Of course, suppose a person suffers from scabies and does not receive treatment. In that case, this person will continue to be contagious until he or she receives treatment.
Will this infection go away on its own?
No, scabies will not go away on their own. For scabies to go away, the patient must visit a doctor when having symptoms. To get rid of scabies, patients should begin treatment with lotions and creams to kill scabies mites and eggs effectively.
Additionally, home remedies are not recommended for this disease; it can cause an outbreak within the community, which is why a visit to the doctor is important. If the case is severe, the doctor may indicate pills for treating the disease.
Is scabies an STD, and do you feel you have it?
As you just read in the article, scabies can be an STD. This tool is a Scabies Symptoms Checker. It gathers the most important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for the disease. Therefore, the tool will tell anybody who uses it the likelihood of their symptoms because of Scabies. Using the tool is free and would only take a few minutes.