First the facts – scabies is not an infection, but an infestation. Put in another way, scabies is an attack of the human skin by a mite. The scientific name of this mite is Sarcoptes scabiei.
This mite pitches tent in the outer layer of the human skin and in time will burrow and lay eggs within the skin. The end result is manifested by relentless itching and the outbreak of a skin rash.
What Do Scabies Look Like?
It is impossible to identify the mite with the naked eye. However, there are a number of symptoms that will typically afflict one infested with scabies. These symptoms are listed below:
- Intense itching
- Pimple like rashes (but are actually tiny knots/bites under the skin)
- Scales or blisters
- Sores from scratching
It is important to note that these symptoms by themselves are not an indication that one is infested with scabies. To be sure that one is infested with scabies, one has to eliminate the possibility that the skin condition one is suffering from is not acne or mosquito bites. If it is an attack of scabies, then the dead give- away will be the persistent itch that accompanies the rash. You can also notice burrows on the skin sometimes.
What Do They Feel Like?
The feel of a scabies infestation borders on two extremes. On one end, the itch could be superficial, almost like dealing with a flea bite, whilst on the other end the itch could be more intense as in the case of a wriggling sensation under large areas of the body such as the upper back or the inner arm.
This is a severe infestation of scabies that involves tens of thousands of mites on a single individual. This condition, also known as Norwegian scabies, causes an individual to develop a thick crust that is full of mites and crust. This type of scabies is quiet common in people with a suppressed immune system, the elderly and the aged. It requires swift medical intervention to prevent an outbreak. With crusted scabies you will not need to ask the question “what do scabies look like?” as it will be all too obvious.
The most common complication that people suffering from scabies have to deal with is open sores. These sores come as a result of the intense scratching that is brought on by the intense itch of scabies. With the presence of open sores, bacterial skin infections such as impetigo become a reality. Impetigo is identified by the presence of honey colored oozing blisters, and like all bacterial infections, is managed by a dose of antibiotics.
Where Do You Have Scabies Symptoms?
With the information given above, the most natural question to ask would be where exactly do scabies live? Scabies will normally be found in one or more of the following body parts:
- Between the fingers
- The folds of the wrist, elbow or knee
- Around the waistline and navel
- The breasts or navel
- In young children scabies will be found in the head, neck, palms and soles of the feet.
Can Scabies Mites Be Seen?
The blunt answer to the above question is NO! A mite will typically be less than half a millimeter long. Add this to the fact that in normal circumstances an individual will only play host to some 10 to 15 mites at any given time and you get the picture that the naked eye cannot possibly identify these mites.
The closest the naked eye can come to spotting the mite is by the appearance of some black spots on the skin. These mites can only be viewed by a microscope when a skin scrapping is done.
How Is Scabies Tested and Diagnosed?
Knowing what do scabies look like is not enough, you have to make sure it is a scabies infestation. Scabies is usually diagnosed by the appearance of the rash and the description of the itch. In some instances, a skin scrapping (which will involve collecting skin from the affected area and using a microscope to assess the mite, egg or fecal matter) will be used to test and diagnose scabies.
Other tests that may be done include:
- Dermoscopy, which involves using a handheld demoscope to allow for closer visual examination of the skin
- Adhesive tape test whereby a doctor uses a strong adhesive tape applied to the skin lesions and then pull off and view under a microscope to check for mites
Getting Rid Of Scabies
There is a nickname given to the phenomenon that is scabies infestation. The seven-years itch.
This nickname best illustrates the difficulty of managing scabies. To manage scabies, one needs to follow a strict medical protocol plus be on topical medicine. Even then, itching might continue for some weeks. The patient must be on the lookout for new bite tracks for this could be an indication that a second intervention is required.