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Identifying and treating scabies

What is scabies?

Scabies is an itchy condition in which microscopic mites known as Sarcoptes Scabiei invade the skin. Anyone can contract scabies, although geriatric patients and young children are most susceptible.

What is the cause?

Scabies is not a hereditary condition, it is caused by small parasitic mites that can not easily be seen. There are a number of ways to contract scabies as this condition is highly contagious. They are most commonly spread via skin to skin contact but sharing clothing, towels, bedding or other personal articles with an infected person can also cause scabies to be contracted.

Pets can also contract scabies, but the type of mite that affects animals is a different one, it does not spread to humans.

Scabies can affect people of every race and every age, although the immune-deficient, the young, the elderly, and those with HIV, diabetes, renal failure or any other condition affecting the immune system, are more vulnerable to it. These individuals are also at greater risk of contracting crusted scabies (Norwegian scabies) which is a severe form of the disease. In the case of crusted scabies, thousands of mites are on the skin which spread very easily.

How do you know you may be suffering from scabies?

Itchy skin is the primary symptom. Typically, the itching will become noticeable immediately or even a month after the mites have been contracted. The itch is often at its worst at night. The entire body may be affected, although the head and neck are only rarely affected in the elderly or the very young. Due to its contagious nature, it is common for an entire family to share the condition. While the itch is often accompanied by other physical symptoms, itch can be present on its own with no other symptoms.

What does scabies look like?

Small red bumps that look like pimples can occur anywhere on the body, accompanied by scratch marks and scaling over the bumps. These marks may become infected, scab, or develop pus.

The marks and bumps can appear as a rash which looks similar to eczema. The rash can occur anywhere on the body although the mites will lay their eggs and nest between the fingers, toes, ankles, soles of the feet, buttocks, waist, palms of the hands, armpits, groin and breasts.
Small spots and silver lines on the skin are also common (burrows). They are caused by the mites digging into the skin to lay their eggs.

How is scabies diagnosed?

Dr. Khoza will ask you about your medical and family history. Scabies mites are minute, however, the adult mites can be identified using a dermatoscope. Dr. Khoza may also examine a small skin sample under a microscope for extra measure.

Can it be cured?

Recurring scabies infestations are common, the condition is very contagious. To prevent reinfection, it is important to cleanse the environment.

Scabies can be cured. It is necessary to use the correct medication as it will not resolve on its own. If not treated, the disease can persist leading to infection and further spread. It is very uncomfortable to live with.

Once treatment commences, the condition clears up quickly. Once the mites have been eradicated the itching may persist for some time – up to a month.

How is scabies treated?

  • Eradicating the scabies mites from your skin and environment. Bedding, clothing, mats, and anything that can be washed needs to be washed in hot water.
  • It is important to ensure your close friends and family are also treated, even if they are asymptomatic (show no symptoms).
  • Items that can not be washed need to stored in the freezer or sealed in plastic bags for one week.
  • Topical preparations and oral medications are both effective. Dr. Khoza will decide which preparations are best for you based on your age, medical history, and lifestyle.

How to use scabies (ascabiol) medication?

  • Apply the treatment neck to toe and keep it on for 12 hours.
  • Make sure to apply the treatment evenly across the skin all over the body. Even areas that show no symptoms may have mites.
  • If the preparation is washed or wiped off the skin accidentally for any reason, it needs to be reapplied. Bath thoroughly on the first day before the first application. It is not necessary to bath on day 2 of treatment before applying the medication.
  • The preparation needs to be applied twice once and can be repeated at one-week intervals. This will ensure the next generation of hatchlings is also wiped out.

What to expect at your consultation with Dr. Khoza

Dr. Khoza understands that this condition is not contracted due to poor hygiene. Scabies is highly contagious. In order to rule out other conditions, Dr. Khoza will ask you about your medical history.

Try to give Dr. Khoza as much detail about the symptoms you are experiencing, as possible. Ho long you have had these symptoms, what triggers the itch, and the location of the symptoms are all important points of information.

A confirmed diagnosis is a start to feeling better. Take the first step by booking your appointment today: 027 31 581 2543

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