Scabies symptoms are caused by the reaction of the skin to the presence of mites in the skin’s structure. In fact, the symptoms are essentially due to an allergic reaction of the body or skin to the presence of the mites, the eggs they lay underneath the surface of the skin, or their waste products, which the mites are constantly producing.
The number one symptom associated with the skin problem of scabies is intense or extreme itching. This itching is particularly prevalent at night while the individual is in bed. The constant and intense itch leads to sleep problems, stress, and overall poor health. The itch is especially bothersome between the folds of the skin, the inner wrist and elbow areas, armpits, around the breasts, groin area, between fingers and toes, back of knees, and around the belt line or navel. In younger children or infants, scabies may also appear on the face, scalp, palms of the hands or even the bottom of the feet. In addition to the extreme itch, the affected skin areas may also become red and warm or simply show signs of general skin irritation such as a rash.
The skin itch occurs at the site where the mites have burrowed into the skin. The sites that the mites have burrowed through look like pencil-thin or tunnel like lines of tiny blisters, pimples, or bumps on the skin. People with a greater sensitivity to mites will develop more pronounced skin irritation, sometimes covering large skin areas. In addition, the skin may become crusty instead of just having tiny blisters or small pimples. This is a more severe form of scabies often referred to as “Norwegian scabies" or "crusted scabies". This form of scabies often appears in individuals in poor health and with weak immune systems.
Scabies symptoms such as the skin itching or skin irritation usually take about six weeks after the initial infestation to become apparent. In some cases, the scabies symptoms may appear in as little as two weeks. For individuals who have previously had a scabies skin problem, re-infestation with scabies mites will likely produce symptoms in a one to four day time period. It is very common for other family members to get scabies from the infested person. This is a strong indication that scabies is the actual problem and not some other skin disease.
The main complication from scabies is infection. This is because of the intense itch. Over scratching can open up the skin’s surface and a bacterial infection can occur, unless the wound is properly cleaned, disinfected, and kept clean. Antibiotic treatment is also required if the skin becomes infected and treatments should begin as soon as possible.
Finally, scabies symptoms can often be confused with other skin problems or skin conditions.
Check with your doctor if you experience scabies symptoms to determine exactly if this is the skin problem. A doctor will usually collect skin scrapings and examine them under a microscope to see if any mites, mite eggs, or mite feces are present. Sometimes ink is applied to the skin to make the mite burrows appear more visible and confirm a scabies skin problem.
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