10 Scabies Symptoms
You Should Know


Worried about scabies symptoms? You're not alone. Each year millions of people experience the signs and symptoms of scabies. So, how you know if you really have scabies? You probably won't without further testing. But, you should know that scabies has very specific tell-tale signs that appear on those infected by these tiny mites.

Unfortunately, scabies can look like so many other common skin conditions. Often, it's difficult to differentiate scabies from dematitis, eczema, psoriasis, and other insect bites like bed bugs.

Misdiagnoses happen quite frequently with scabies. The downside is that the wrong diagnosis generally leads to the wrong treatment, which can make scabies outbreaks much worse. Be sure to look out for the following symptoms and signs of scabies.

Red, Inflamed Rashes

scabies rash
Photo by Stesche
WikiMedia Commons

Rashes are common with many parasitic skin infestations. Bed bugs and ringworm are two top examples. But, scabies mites are special. They like to hang out on parts of the body that have few hair follicles. Areas such as the webbbing space between the fingers, wrists, elbows, and the folds of skin near the genitals, and breasts.

When you're first infected with scabies mites, you might not feel a rash until at least 3 to 4 weeks later. This is just a delayed response from the body. In the mean time, you can still spread scabies to others. Scabies rashes aren't prety little circular rashes like with ringworm. Scabies rashes are mean itchy pimple-like bumps. Sometimes, these bumps are filled with pus or with clear fluid.

Very Intense Itching

Over the years in my nursing practice, I've been told by patients who have suffered with scabies symptoms that it is one of the most intense types of itching they've ever experienced. It's relentless non-stop itching. with little to no relief. The average bug bite itch comes and goes. One can easily forget about the discomfort. Just think about easy it is to forget about a mosquito bite?

But, with scabies there's no forgetting. Keep in mind scabies mites bury deep into the skin's epidermis. So, trying to rinse them off will simply not work. Most topical anti-itch treatments cannot seep deep enough into the skin to relieve itching.

This intense itching is the result of an allergic response to chemicals scabies mites release as they dig into human skin. The only way to get rid of the itch is to kill the mites and their eggs. Even then, it takes a fews day to a week for the body to stop reacting to chemicals released.

scabies burrow

Battling Burrows

Burrows are the most distinctive characteristics of scabies. What are burrows? They are areas of dissolved skin where the scabies mites have “burrowed” or dug their way in to lay eggs. Burrows look threaded lines and are homes to the scabies mites.

These gray to skin colored wavy lines are about 1mm in width and 10mm in length. You may be able to see a mite in a burrow as they show up as a black dot at the base of a burrow. Only adult female mites make burrows. Generally, it takes about a half an hour for scabies mites to burrow down into the skin from the surface.

Bumpy Nodules

Nodules are areas of sking swelling. Nodular scabies is much more common in children. It is most noted on the shoulders and groin area. Nodules may remain in place for months as they take time to go away even when medication has killed the scabies mites. Nodules are considered a delayed reaction to a scabies mite infection.

Crusted Skin

If you have thickened, crusty, itchy skin, watch out. You could have scabies. But, you could also have psoriasis, eczema, or any number of other skin conditions. The good news... if you're a healthy active person, you probably don't have scabies.

The bad news...if you have a compromised immune system, you may have a severe, highly contagious form of mite infestation called Norwegian scabies. It's better to be safe than sorry with scabies symptoms. If you notice plaque-like, thickened skin on your body, get it check out by your doctor.

Swollen Lymph nodes

Like with any infection in the body, scabies can cause lymph glands to swell. Lymph nodes are small oval-shaped organs that produce antibodies. Lymph nodes are part of the body's defense system against invaders.

Nodes closest to the area on the body most impacted by scabies will swell and feel tender. If you get a scabies rash near your left elbow, nodes in left your arm, armpit, or chest may become enlarged.

Restless Sleep

I know what you're thinking. What in the world does restless sleep have to do with scabies symptoms? Well, if you've ever had scabies, you know that it has everything to do with poor sleep. The unbearable itching keeps you up at night.

Typically, scabies itching is most intense at night during hours of sleep. One theory is that scabies mites move more at night as they are not bothered by their awake human host.

Yucky Skin Infections

Often, scabies rashes do not appear in isolation. Prolonged scratching of scabies lesions can introduce other secondary skin infections like strep or staph. It's best not to scratch rashes at all. If you really have to scratch, wash hands throughly before and after. Mites can easily get under fingernails and be spread to others.

Rapid Weight Loss

Some people might welcome any type of weight loss. Yet, scabies weight loss is really due to unbearable itching. It's hard to focus on eating with such intense sensations. Just the thought of crawling bugs on the skin is enough to take away one's appetite. With the crusted type of scabies, other medical issues affect nutrition. Severe scabies mite infestations only make underlying problems worse.

No Scabies Symptoms

You might be surprised to know that one of the most common symptoms of scabies is no symptoms. That's right, You might have scabies and not know it...yet. It takes a up to a month or so before scabies symptoms appears.

Medications can also mask the scabies symptoms. Imagine this... you have a rash amd think it's just bug bites or a simple allergic reaction. So, you apply a topical over the counter cortisone anti-itch cream for a couple of weeks.

You keep applying it, even though it really doesn't do much for your itching. The problem is that active ingredient in the medication is supresssing your body's allergic response to the scabies mites. All the while, the mites are still there reproducing and munching away at your skin. This situation is called scabies incognito.



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