Scabies Overview - Information on many scabies subjects
Scabies is caused by various species of parasitic mites (some species of mites can infest both humans and animals, while others infest exclusively humans or animals) that infest the skin, causing inflammation, rash, irritations and itch. Scabies has a pronounced contagious character, as the tiny parasitic mites can be easily contracted by direct contact (entering in contact with contaminated persons or animals) or indirect contact (exposure to contaminated objects). Although scabies can affect anyone, regardless of age, the disease is most commonly seen in children.
The high incidence of scabies in children doesn’t indicate that children are more vulnerable to contracting the causative mites due to physical factors, as one might erroneously conclude. The main reason why children are more susceptible to developing scabies is that they generally interact with lots of persons in kindergarten / school or on the playground, being exposed to a higher risk of contracting scabies mites. Children also enjoy interacting with animals and rarely respect their parents’ advice regarding maintaining proper hygiene, thus becoming even more susceptible of developing scabies.
The incubation period of scabies greatly varies, depending on factors such as the type and number of infesting scabies mites and the overall health condition of the afflicted person. Persons in good health generally perceive the first symptoms of scabies after a period of 3-4 weeks from the moment of infection. However, persons with weak immune system (elderly people and persons with immune system deficiency) and persons with increased sensibility to scabies mites (persons confronted with second infestation) may perceive the symptoms of scabies after only a few days from the moment of contamination.
Once they reach human skin, female mites burrow in the superficial layers of skin and lay their eggs. After a few days, the eggs hatch and tiny larvae climb their way up to the skin surface. Larvae usually reach maturity in 2-3 weeks, when they begin to mate. Without proper treatment, the mite infestation can produce severe undesirable effects (bacterial infections, allergic reactions) both at the level of the epidermis and in deeper layers of the skin (dermis) in only a matter of weeks. Most symptoms of scabies are caused by the mites’ secretions (saliva and feces), as well as their eggs and larvae. The first signs of infestation with scabies mites are: intense itching, swelling, irritation and inflammation of the skin, small reddish bumps and blisters. In later stages of infestation, the skin regions affected by scabies may appear scaly, crusted or ulcerated.
As soon as they infest a human host, scabies mites usually hide in body regions that provide shelter and a good hiding place, their presence being very difficult to detect with the naked eye. The parasitic organisms that cause scabies prefer to burrow between the fingers and toes, in the areas surrounding the wrists and elbows, in armpits, the regions of the feet, ankles, knees, genital organs and nipples. Although they can infest various regions of the body, scabies mites rarely infest the face or the neck.
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