What is Scabies?

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The presence of the mite leads to intense itching in the area of its burrows. The urge to scratch may be especially strong at night. Scabies is contagious and can spread quickly through close physical contact in a family, child care group, school class, nursing home or prison. Because of the contagious nature of scabies, doctors often recommend treatment for entire families or contact groups. Scabies is readily treated. Medications applied to your skin kill the mites that cause scabies and their eggs, although you may still experience some itching for several weeks.

Scabies signs and symptoms include:

  • Itching, often severe and usually worse at night
  • Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin

The burrows or tracks typically appear in folds of your skin. Though almost any part of your body may be involved, in adults and older children scabies is most often found:

  • Between fingers
  • In armpits
  • Around your waist
  • Along the insides of wrists
  • On your inner elbow
  • On the soles of your feet
  • Around breasts
  • Around the male genital area
  • On buttocks
  • On knees
  • On shoulder blades

In infants and young children, common sites of infestation include the:

  • Scalp
  • Face
  • Neck
  • Palms of the hands
  • Soles of the feet

If you’ve had scabies before, signs and symptoms may develop within a few days of exposure. However, if you’ve never had scabies, it could take as long as six weeks for signs and symptoms to begin. It’s important to remember that you can still spread scabies even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms yet.