Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow and lay eggs in the skin.

Scabies: an overview

Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow and lay eggs in the skin.

Anyone can get scabies, but you are at higher risk by being in close contact with lots of other people, and if you are sexually active.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does scabies spread?

Scabies like warm places, such as skin folds, between the fingers, under fingernails, or around the buttock or breast creases. They can also hide under accessories such as watch straps, bracelets or rings.

Scabies is usually spread through skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact with someone who is infected.

It's also possible for scabies to be passed on by sharing clothing, towels and bedding with someone who's infected, however getting Scabies this way is rare.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of scabies can take up to eight weeks to appear. These include:

  • An intense itching that's worse at night
  • A skin rash on areas (such as between the fingers) where the mites have burrowed.
How do I know if I've got it?

You can visit an axess sexual health clinic or your GP to see if you have scabies. Often talking to you about your symptoms and taking a look at your skin is enough for clinicians to make a diagnosis.

They may also take a skin sample, by scraping off a tiny layer of skin cells. This should not hurt.

If you, or your partner, has been diagnosed with genital scabies, you should also have a full sexual health check to make sure you don't have any STIs.

Can it be treated?

Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated. Treatment involves using creams that contain insecticides that kill the scabies mite. You may also be offered treatment to relieve itching.

To prevent reinfection, all those you live with and any close contacts, including recent sexual partners, should be treated at the same time as you, even if they don't have any symptoms.

You will also need to wash all bed linen, nightwear and towels at a temperature above 50°C.

How can it be prevented?

To prevent the spread of scabies, you should avoid prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, for example, holding hands, sharing a bed, or sexual contact

What will happen if I have scabies but I don't get them treated?

If left untreated, scratched areas can become increasingly irritated. This can lead to a further secondary skin infection.

Although scabies usually doesn't result in permanent marking or scarring, a secondary infection can increase the likelihood of this happening.