Does this look like a positive Burrow Ink Test?

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tl;dr - Based on the photos attached, after visiting two doctors already would you pay another $400 to see a dermatologist or just buy permethrin from the pharmacy?

So my symptoms began 6-8 weeks ago. I started getting itchy in a few spots (tiny bumps on my hands) and noticed what seemed like bug bites on my torso. Since in one area they appeared in what looked like a line of 3 my first thought was bed bugs, but I didn't see any signs of them although since I've been staying on a friend's dark colored couch recently it wasn't easy to tell for sure.

It started getting worse so I looked up my symptoms online and became convinced I had scabies, even though it didn't really look anything like the pictures online it seemed similar and was extremely itchy at night.

So I went to a doctor and told them I suspected scabies which was probably a mistake because she hardly looked at me, and not even up close, said "yeah could be, here's a prescription for permethrin and some antihistamines". I asked if they could do the skin scrape test but she said they don't do that, of they think it even might be scabies they just give you the cream. I bought an extra cream for my flatmate and used an entire bottle, took all laundry to the laundromat, vacuumed everything, etc. on the 21st of September. Only after I had used all the cream did I realize you were supposed to use it again a week later. Approximately 2 weeks later it seemed as though it was getting worse, the itching was absolutely unbearable and would wake me up in the middle of the night, if I was lucky enough to get to sleep in the first place. I didn't even want to be around anyone for fear of spreading this gross and terrible infestation.

I visited another doctor but simply said for a rash and showed her everything. Only after she started it looked like dry skin and an allergic reaction of some kind did I mention my suspicion of scabies and I pointed out areas I thought might be indicative which she looked at very closely and said it is 100% not scabies. When I kept pointing out more spots she said "no no no it's definitely not and you need to stop thinking about that or you'll scratch more and make it worse". I left feeling relieved but still frustrated I didn't know the cause. Oh and with 2 new antihistamines and some hydrocortisone cream. I know my skin and I know this is not normal, especially lasting 6 weeks or more.

Nothing has helped. Not the 6 different allergy meds, the lotions or creams, and stinky Pinetarsol shower gel. The only thing that provides temporary relief is putting something cold on the itchy areas.

Since I'm traveling and this isn't an "emergency" my travel insurance does not cover these visits and paying full price for a non-resident has already cost me close to $500 to no avail. A dermatologist would cost around $400. I'm happy to pay that if it resolves the issue but considering all the money I've wasted so far I'm hesitant to do so.

Previously I never noticed anything resembling "burrows" but recently I have seen some areas I thought could be so I did the ink test where I applied ink to the affected area and wiped it off. As you can see from the photos there is a definite line in some areas.

A few days ago my neck area was itchy (photo included) but it looked more like an allergic reaction and has calmed down since. I know much of the red marks on my torso and some of the cracked skin on my palms is likely due to scratching, but I really try my best not to. It's just absolutely unbearable.

So for those of you that have had scabies, did it look like this? Based on the "results" of my self administered ink test would you just get the permethrin from the pharmcy and do the treatment again (twice) or would you pay the $400 to see a dermatologist?

Hopefully I attached the photos properly...

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  • Posted

    Hi Maria,

    i cannot begin to tell you how much i understand. I Have similar markings but the derm says it is not scabies. please let me know if you found out one way or the other! i seriously feel crazy.... i go for days without itching at all but then sometimes i itch all over. I do have eczema however so thats not that out of the ordinary for me. image

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    • Posted

      Hi Bradley,

      It's so difficult for me to say as I really am not sure. I was in another country at the time and ended up getting the permethrin cream/lotion once again through prescription (I went back to the doctor once or twice since this post, cost me a fortune all in all), and once just by getting it myself as I came to realize they just had it available on the shelf at the pharmacy's there for 10 bucks or less. I did the whole thing again, carefully applying lotion to every inch of my body and washing everything, drying on hot for at least 20 minutes. It was so cheap I bought an extra just to do "spot treatment" on random itchy spots. I repeated the process after one week.

      I bought extras for my flatmates and tried to stress the importance of how terrible it was (they did not think it was scabies either). I said seriously, all you have to do is put this lotion on which I already bought, just in case, etc. Anyhow, started to feel better, dating someone new, then my flatmate started constantly scratching, and I realized she hadn't even used 1/3 the bottle of lotion (I used the whole thing and I'm 1/3 her size), so I was p****d she didn't take it seriously and we were going to be in a neverending cycle. Everytime my new partner had an itch I got paranoid, thinking it must've come back. I got itchy again as well, at times I wasn't even thinking about it. I was incredibly anxious I was reinfected and going to infect everyone back home and had already infected my new partner.

      I came back to my home country for a few months, and I'm not itchy anymore (beyond the norm, nowhere NEAR it was before). I don't think scabies just magically goes away, and I'm still convinced that I had sure signs of burrows, but I do think part of it was my paranoia.

      My advice would be, if you live somewhere where you can buy the cream/lotion at the pharmacy without a prescription, just do it. Go through the whole process, diligently washing, drying, vacuuming, and even perhaps bagging things for a few days. Then do it all again a week later. MAKE SURE anyone you come into frequent contact with (partner, flatmate, etc) does the same or you'll constantly reinfect one another. If it is scabies, that should do it, for the majority of people. If it's mostly psychological, it should still do it. If it's something else, well then you'll have to figure that out.

      It's humiliating, you feel disgusting telling people, I know trust me. But you really can get it a number of ways, and as dirty as you might feel thinking you might have scabies, it really has nothing to do with cleanliness so it's super important that you get over that long enough to make sure at least your partner and those living with you do the treatment as well. Even if you just say, "the doctor doesn't think it's this but I want to be safe just in case, let's just do this lotion thing"

      I'm not sure my drawn out story was helpful, but I figured I'd throw it out there. It was most certainly a MISERABLE number of months for me, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

      Best wishes Bradley! Truly! You'll get through this!

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