Scabies

What Is "Norwegian Scabies"?

Scabies is a well-known infection that results in a particularly relentless and devastating itch that starts out slowly and increases in severity over time. The mites that cause the condition, scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabiei, burrow into the skin of infected humans. While they are so tiny that it's not possible to see them with the naked eye, they can be appreciated by examination with a magnifying glass or microscope.

What is scabies? What causes a scabies infestation?

Scabies is an itchy, highly contagious skin disease caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Mites are small eight-legged parasites (in contrast to insects, which have six legs). They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter long, and burrow into the skin to produce intense itching, which tends to be worse at night. The mites that infest humans are female and are 0.3 mm-0.4 mm long; the males are about half this size. Scabies mites can be seen with a magnifying glass or microscope. The scabies mites crawl but are unable to fly or jump. They are immobile at temperatures below 20 C, although they may survive for prolonged periods at these temperatures.

Scabies infestation occurs worldwide and is very common. It has been estimated that about 300 million cases occur each year throughout the world. Human scabies has been reported for over 2,500 years. Scabies has been reported to occur in epidemics in nursing homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other institutions. In the U.S., scabies frequently affects the homeless population. It also occurs episodically in other populations of all socioeconomic groups, as well.

Reviewed on 5/22/2014

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