The symptoms of scabies

  • Intense itching (pruritus).
  • Pimple like itchy rash.
  • Short, liner or nodular burrows between the fingers.
  • Tiny red bumps and blisters on the skin.
  • Scratching causes sores, which further get infected by bacteria.
  • Tiny burrows are visible as female mite form tunnels below the skin (skin color lines on the skin surface).
  • Itching and rash occur in common body sites (wrist, elbow, nipple, waist, penis, webbing between the fingers, waist, buttocks)


Scabies is an infestation, in which tiny burrowing mites called Sarcoptes Scabiei borrow up in the outer layer of the skin and lay eggs inside the skin. This infestation by mites causes intense itchiness (especially strong flare-ups at night) and angry rashes in the area where mites burrow.

Scabies is contagious, as mites can spread quickly from physical contact, sexual activities (hug and quick handshake do not spread scabies), contaminated articles such as clothes, towels, bedding, chairs, and often spread quickly in places like prison, school classes, and nursing home. If someone in a family is suffering from scabies, then the entire family is recommended to be cautious and seek treatment.

Causative agent

The female eight-legged mite or itch mite (Sarcoptes Scabiei) that cause scabies is microscopic, and it makes burrows and tunnel beneath the skin to deposit its eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae migrates to other areas of the skin and matures. This leads to the spread of scabies in the skin. Itching in scabies is caused because of the allergic response of the body towards the waste and eggs of the mites. The scabies mites in animals cannot affect human, as every species prefers a distinct type of host, but there is a probability that animal scabies mite can cause a few skin problems in humans.

Our skin specialists at Dermaworld Skin Clinics (Delhi) advise the patients not to scratch the skin as it increases the chances of secondary pathogen infection. For example, Staphylococcus infection that can cause impetigo.

Norwegian scabies

People with a compromised immune system due to HIV, AIDS, chronic leukemia, and older people are at a higher risk of developing the hard to treat Norwegian scabies or crusted scabies. In this type of scabies, the skin becomes crusty and hard as in this case, and the affected individual is infested with millions of mites (in typical scabies the individual is affected with 15-20 mites). This type of scabies is very contagious, and the people affected with crusted scabies must be provided with quick medical treatment to prevent outbreaks.


The diagnosis of scabies is done based on the customary appearance, rash distribution, and presence of burrows. The microscopic examination for the existence of mites, eggs, and their fecal material is done. Dermoscopy and adhesive tape test is also done to check for the presence of mites.


Products like scabicides (permethrin) kill the scabies mites, and they are available only after a doctor's prescription. Certain precautions may be recommended by our dermatologists at Dermaworld Skin Clinics pertaining to the application of scabicide lotion, which must be followed without fail. Antihistamines and certain lotions are also prescribed to obtain relief from itching.

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Precautions required

The clothes must be washed with hot water and must be dried under direct sunlight. Clean clothes must be worn after treatment. The family members of the affected individual must also be treated as the symptoms may take 2-3 weeks to display.

Scabies mites cannot survive for more than 2-3 days if they are not in contact with human skin. The affected articles can be decontaminated by washing them in hot water and drying them in the hot cycle, dry cleaning. The items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned can be decontaminated by removing any body contact for at least 72 hours.

If scabies is not treated, then it can cause allergic skin rash (dermatitis), and it is always recommended to consult a dermatologist to nip the evil in the bud. At Dermaworld Skin Clinics (Delhi), our dermatologist will examine the skin area, confirm the presence or absence of scabies, and accordingly prescribe the further actions to be taken. If the patient has scabies, he/she will be suggested an appropriate treatment. One must keep it in mind that the products used for scabies treatment must be applied or used only after a prescription from a certified medical professional.

Dr. Rohit Batra, an MD (Dermatology,
Venereology & Leprology), is an adult,
pediatric and cosmetic dermatologist
& dermato-surgeon based at New Delhi.






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