Scabies Diagnosis

Authored by Dr Oliver Starr, 02 Oct 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Hannah Gronow, 02 Oct 2017

Scabies is usually diagnosed just by looking at the rash, and by the story of itchy spots spreading around your body.

Scabies is usually diagnosed just by looking at the rash, and by the story of itchy spots spreading around your body. A doctor will often be able to recognise the typical appearance of the scabies rash, although in the early stages it can resemble eczema.

Often, a doctor will find one or more mite tunnels (burrows) on the skin to confirm the diagnosis. Sometimes the doctor will rub some ink on the skin and then wipe it off. If there are burrows in that area of skin, the ink will move along the burrow under the skin. It will be visible as a line after the rest of the ink has been wiped away.

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the rash caused by scabies and the rashes of some other skin conditions. For example, sometimes the itchiness on the hands and wrists is quite similar to eczema. Sometimes doctors will treat the itching with steroid creams, which work well in eczema but will not help scabies at all.

If itching and a rash develop in several people who live in the same home at about the same time then scabies is a likely cause.

If you are confident that you have scabies - you may have seen the tunnels (burrows) on your skin, or perhaps you have had it before - then you don't need to see your doctor. Treatments for scabies are available to buy from a pharmacy.

Further reading and references

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