Scabies is a very itchy skin infestation caused by a tiny mite. It is spread by close contact, such as living with someone or sharing a bed.
Even the name 'scabies' sounds really nasty: it comes from the name of the tiny mite (like a really tiny insect). It can burrow into your skin, often through your hands, and then spread around your body.
What does scabies feel like?
Scabies is really really itchy. People say it's the itchiest thing they've ever had. It can drive people to their wits' end, especially at night. Often people are itching so much that they can't sleep. The itching and the tiredness make people really desperate for a treatment and they often turn up to the doctor feeling quite tearful.
The tiny mite can crawl anywhere, but it usually gets into your hands first. Then it spreads from your hands to anywhere you tend to touch: your neck, your tummy (abdomen), your chest. It often focuses on your belly button or the tops of your legs (your groin).
Further reading and references
Scabies; DermNet NZ
Strong M, Johnstone PW; Interventions for treating scabies. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18(3):CD000320.
Gunning K, Pippitt K, Kiraly B, et al; Pediculosis and scabies: treatment update. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Sep 1586(6):535-41.
FitzGerald D, Grainger RJ, Reid A; Interventions for preventing the spread of infestation in close contacts of people with scabies. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Feb 242:CD009943. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009943.pub2.
Engelman D, Kiang K, Chosidow O, et al; Toward the global control of human scabies: introducing the International Alliance for the Control of Scabies. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2013 Aug 87(8):e2167. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002167. eCollection 2013.
Scabies; NICE CKS, May 2016 (UK access only)
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