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Scabies is a contagious disorder characterized by itchy skin. The cause is a tiny mite barely visible to the eye as a minuscule speck. The creature is attracted to skin because of the warmth. The mite burrows within the top layer resulting in intense itching that is especially severe at night. Areas commonly affected include finger webs, wrists, buttocks, penis, and nipples. Red scratch marks and punctate bleeding points occur wherever the mite burrows. The face is rarely involved, except in infants.
Scabies is spread from person to person by direct contact. The condition readily infects other household members, sexual partners, and schoolchildren. Scabies has become epidemic in this country; over one million Americans each year contract the so-called itch mite.
Scabies is usually diagnosed by the characteristic physical appearance (multiple scratched pimples) and history of intense itching that is worst at night. Sometimes the burrows of the mite can be seen under a magnifying glass. A definitive diagnosis is made by microscopic examination of a skin scraping; visualizing the mite confirms scabetic infection.
The human itch mite, sarcoptes scabiei.
Scabies can be eradicated using a prescription cream containing the ingredient permethrin. This should be applied over the entire body, except the face, for about eight hours and then thoroughly washed off. Lesions will clear in some two to three weeks. Treatment is advised for all persons in close contact with an infested individual. The oral medication Ivermectin, taken as a single dose, will cure most cases of scabies as well.