Microscopic mites that burrow within the skin cause scabies. With several weeks, the patient develops an allergic reaction, which results in severe itching, often intense enough to keep sufferers awake all night. The earliest and most common symptom of scabies is itching, especially at night. Early on, little red bumps, like hives, tiny bites or pimples appear. In more advanced cases, the skin may be crusty or scaly.
Scabies prefers warmer sites on the skin such as skin folds where clothing is tight. These areas include between the fingers, on the elbows or wrists, buttocks or belt line, around the nipples, and on the penis. Mites also tend to hide in, or on, the skin under rings, bracelets, and watchbands, or under the nails.
Many cases of scabies can be diagnosed by dermatologists without special tests. To confirm scabies your dermatologist can perform a painless test that involves applying a drop of oil to the suspected lesion. The site is then scraped and transferred to a glass slide, which is then examined using a microscope. A diagnosis is made by finding scabies mites or their eggs.
Scabies is easy and quick to treat with prescription drugs, 5 percent permethrin cream is applied to the skin from head-to-toe at bedtime and washed off the next morning. Dermatologists recommend that the cream be applied to cool, dry skin, over the entire body and left on for 8 to 14 hours. A second treatment one week later may be recommended for infants with scabies of the palms and soles or if new lesions appear after the treatment. All lesions should be healed within four weeks after the treatment.