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What Exactly is Scabies?

Recently in the UK there has been a surge in scabies cases. This highly contagious skin condition can affect anyone, and yet people may avoid visiting their doctor if they think they have the condition. That’s because certain skin conditions can often be unfairly associated with poor health or hygiene, which can cause people to feel ashamed about seeking help. Here, we uncover the facts about scabies, and look at causes, symptoms, and most importantly, seeking diagnosis and effective treatment.


What Causes Scabies?

Scabies is a contagious condition caused by microscopic mites that live, feed, and reproduce under the top layer of skin. An itchy rash is often a tell-tale sign of scabies, caused by irritation from the mites. Scabies is easily transmitted from person to person, primarily through skin-to-skin contact, and can be more common in winter months, when people are more likely to be socialising inside. Cases of scabies can be more prevalent in situations where people are living in close contact with one another, such as in student halls or houses.


How Do You Know if You Have Scabies?

Because scabies mites are microscopic, you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye. However, you will be able to see and feel the irritation or skin rash they typically cause.

A rash is often accompanied by intense itching that often feels worse at night, when the mites tend to be more active. The rash may present as tiny spots, bumps or blisters, and can appear anywhere on your body, including between fingers and toes, in your elbow creases and around your groin area. It’s important to visit your doctor if you are experiencing a rash or itchiness anywhere on your body, as this may be scabies or another skin condition that can cause a similar rash. A proper diagnosis will clear up any mystery, and ensure you get the right advice (and medication) for treating or managing your condition effectively.


Is a Scabies Rash Always Red?

Rash colour will vary depending on your skin tone, and can be brown, red, or black. If left untreated, the rash tends to spread across your body, which can be extremely uncomfortable. Any itchy rash is hard not to scratch, but constant scratching can

cause your skin to form scabs, and these scabs can become infected. That’s why it’s really important to visit your doctor as soon as you experience a rash that is unusual for you.


What can You Do if You Think You Have Scabies?

If you are concerned that you might have scabies, don’t put off making an appointment with your doctor. Fortunately, scabies can be easily and effectively treated with prescription medication, either in the form of a topical cream, or oral medication. Left untreated mites can live for up to two months, reproducing in that time and causing you unnecessary discomfort. There’s also a high chance you’ll pass the condition on to others.

While the word ‘scabies’ can have negative connotations, it’s really important to realise that it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, and it certainly is not a sign of poor hygiene. Anyone can get scabies, and visiting your doctor is the best thing you can do to get the appropriate advice – and treatment – you need.


Visiting Our Clinic

If you would like to visit one of our GPs or Consultant Dermatologists, please call 020 7244 4200 or make an appointment online.