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.
Symptoms of scabies 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. The doctor will look for the characteristic signs
of the presence of a scabies mite infestation. These symptoms include severe
itching of the skin and the presence of thin mite burrow tracks under the
surface of the skin. In particular, the doctor will focus on the skin fold
areas of the body because these are the usual areas of infestation by the
The doctor, during his diagnosis, will also try to ascertain if the patient has been in contact with a family member or other individual that has scabies as these situations increase the odds of the occurrence of a scabies skin problem.
The doctor may also take skin scrapings of the affected skin areas. These scrapings are then examined under a microscope. With microscopy, the physician will be able to see any scabies mites, the mite eggs, perhaps some empty egg casings, and even possibly mite feces. The discovery of any of these elements will allow for a positive scabies diagnosis. However, one problem with this method is that mites may not be present in the sampled area and therefore, a negative result from this test does not necessarily rule out scabies completely. In this case, the doctor may revert back to a diagnosis based simply on the scabies symptoms.
Sometimes an ink test is used to diagnose the scabies skin care problem. Ink from a felt tip marker is placed on the itchy skin areas and then wiped off. The mite burrows will absorb the ink more than the surrounding skin and make the burrows more noticeable and easily identifiable.
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