Do I have scabies?

Scabies occurs when the Sarcoptes scabiei mite burrows under your skin. You may be wondering, “Do I have scabies?”

This photo shows someone with scabies on a hand:

Scabies on hand

Image credit: “Acarodermatitis Hand“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the CDC’s page on scabies, the symptoms are:

  • Pimple-like irritations, burrows or rash of the skin, especially the webbing between the fingers; the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee; the penis, the breast, or shoulder blades.
  • Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body.
  • Sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.

Scabies can take 4-6 weeks to appear after exposure. You can catch scabies by prolonged skin-to-skin contact with others, or by sharing items that touch the skin, like towels, unwashed clothing, and sheets. (The CDC website says it is not commonly caught via a handshake or a hug.)

If you think you have scabies, do not try to treat it on your own. See a doctor.

Sometimes other conditions (like bed bug bites) can be mistaken for scabies, even by a doctor.

If you’re wondering, “Do I have scabies?” it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to confirm the presence of scabies, by doing a skin scraping. But remember, even a negative result from the scraping does not mean you do not have scabies.

If you do have scabies, you need to be treated with a prescription medication. One treatment usually works, but if not, the doctor will want you to repeat it or try another lotion. In order to make sure you don’t get it again from your clothing and sheets, you will also need to wash and dry all worn clothing and bedding on hot.

Click here to view more photos of scabies on skin from the University of Iowa Hardin MD site.

Here’s a page on scabies (La sarna) in Spanish.

Scabies mites look like the following picture, but of course, you won’t be able to see them.

scabies mite

Image credit: Scabies, by Micah MacAllen. Used under a Creative Commons Attibution/Share-Alike license.