" Genital scabies tends to be classified as a sexually transmitted disease, although there are ways to contract scabies other than through sexual intercourse. More than 300 million cases of scabies occur every year and affect everyone, in every walk of life. Additionally, personal hygiene has nothing to do with whether or not you may contract scabies. "
There is only one cause of genital scabies and that is the Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, also referred to as the Human itch mite or Scabies itch mite. It’s a very small and nasty, eight-legged round bodied bug, just barely visible to the eye. Additionally, since these creatures furrow under the skin and create tunnels to lay eggs, it’s hard to pin point the cause of your itching, unless you see a doctor.
As for the severe itch you get with genital scabies, the reason for that is due to the secretions the mite oozes into your skin. As the female is snuggling in to start eating, she produces irritating secretions, as she lays her 1-3 eggs per day, that will give you an allergic reaction.
Once the eggs hatch, they head for the skin’s surface, where the females start their own tunnels and burrows and produce more irritating secretions. Other mites stay on the surface of the skin in shallow pockets and also make more of the fluid causing your allergic response. This explains why the itch gets worse over time and why it does not stop.
If this condition is not treated quickly, the female will lay eggs for up to five weeks. Scabies is highly contagious and you may contract it through close contact with someone who has this mite infestation. They can be transferred by holding or shaking hands, sleeping together or using the same towels or bedding as an infected person and of course sexually.
Genital scabies have a wide variety of signs and symptoms that should alert the infected person that something is not right. For instance, you may or may not see a small zigzag blister on your genitals or other parts of your body – usually the moist parts, because scabies mites love warmth and wetness. The blister is the female’s trail, as she is laying her eggs under your skin.
Genital Scabies Picture
Scabies symptoms include irritated skin, pimples, mite burrows and rash.
Source: CDC/ Susan Lindsley
The most obvious signs of scabies infestation are the intense itching, more so at night, and the tell tale red rash from the mites secretions and scratching. If a doctor is not consulted at this stage, the skin may begin to crust over or get scaly. This is not a good sign and the crusts often harbor literally millions of mites and their eggs. By that point, genital scabies is very hard to treat.
Watch for the early harbingers of scabies in the genitals by looking for little red bumps that may look like hives, spider bites or pimples. If these unexplained bumps are also in your armpits, under your nails, at the belt line, between your fingers, the buttocks, in the elbow crease, the inner thighs, on wrists, under watches and rings or around the nipples in women and on the penis for men, there is a good chance you are dealing with scabies.
In children, look for signs in the scalp, palms of the hands or soles of their feet. For scabies in babies, you will typically see head and neck involvement. Be aware that a bacterial infection may set in if any of the skin lesions does get infected. This tends to happen more often with children than adults, but may also happen if an adult scratches until they set up the right environment to cause an infection.
Picture Genital Scabies
32 year old man developed scabies on arms, wrist, legs, abdomen
Source: Clemens Esche, MD, DermAtlas
When dealing with scabies, it is hard to diagnose on sight and thus the doctor will do a couple of things to determine if you are infected. The first test usually involves swabbing an inflamed area with sterile mineral oil and then taking a skin scraping. The physician will be able to see the mites, eggs and feces under the scope.
The other test is an ink test, which is using a black or blue felt-tipped pen on the suspicious areas of infection. The skin is inked then wiped clean. Typically, once the skin is cleaned off, the mite’s burrows under the skin may be seen, enabling the doctor to diagnose scabies.
Prescription treatment approaches involve the whole body, except the head and neck (usually, unless it’s a child or baby with scabies. Everyone in the family will need to be treated. Unlike the natural remedies for scabies described above, the most popular medicinal treatments are permethrin, malathion, sulfur and benzyl benzoate emulsion. These are all poisons and need to be handled with extreme care, particularly if you are treating children. Always follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter when using toxic chemicals.
- Center for Young Women's Health