The scabies mite is a microscopic parasite that causes intense itching, usually combined with small, reddened skin lesions that form a pimply rash. Symptoms are caused by a reaction to the proteins and feces that the scabies mites produce. After their first infestation with scabies, a person may not show symptoms for one to two months. However, symptoms will appear more quickly if that person contracts scabies again. Because scabies mites are easily transmitted and the rash may lead to a skin infection, prompt medical attention and treatment is crucial.
One of the hallmark symptoms of scabies is intense itching, especially at night. Because scabies mites may not leave visible signs of infestation, itching may occur without a rash or lesions and should be brought to a healthcare provider's attention.
Scabies mites may create tiny, reddened lesions that resemble insect bites. Scratching at the infested area increases redness and may lead to open wounds and skin infections. Areas of the body most prone to infestation include the web spaces between the fingers, the wrist folds and inner elbows, shoulder blades, armpits, groin, buttocks and the backs of the knees. In women, lesions may occur under the breasts. Infants and children may also have lesions on the face and neck.
Tiny Burrows on the Skin
As female scabies mites tunnel under the skin to lay their eggs, they leave raised, crooked lines which may be visible to the naked eye. These burrows may initially be gray or the same color as the skin and most often occur between the fingers, on the shoulder blades, in the elbows, along the wrist folds and behind the knees.
Crusted or Norwegian scabies may affect the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and people who have paralysis or a loss of sensation that prevents them from perceiving the intense itching of scabies. Crusted scabies is an aggressive infestation that leaves a dry, crusted rash. Unlike scabies infestations in otherwise healthy persons, which may involve only 10 to 15 mites, crusted scabies infestations may involve millions of mites.