Itchy rash and blisters—is it scabies? In this article we’ll cover what causes scabies, how it is diagnosed, and the different ways it can be treated.
What causes scabies?
Scabies is caused by an infestation of a microscopic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs, which hatch into new populations of mites, causing red blistering rashes. The rash is extremely itchy, and scratching can lead to bacterial infections. The blisters can crust over. Scabies can be passed on to others by skin-to-skin contact. Older individuals and patients with poorly functioning immune systems are particularly at risk.
How are scabies diagnosed?
When the diagnosis is suspected, a dermatologist can scrape off a skin sample and look for mites under a light microscope.
How are scabies treated?
Scabies can be treated topically or with oral medications. Creams and lotions are applied from the neck down and left on for 8 to 14 hours, then washed off. Topical medications include:
- Elimite (permethrin) cream, 5%, is the most popular treatment, used for patients at least two months of age.
- Crotamiton cream, 10%
- Benzyl benzoate lotion, 25%
- Sulfur ointment, 5% to 10%, may be used in infants
- Lindane lotion, 1%
When topical medications are ineffective, as can happen in AIDS patients, or in cases of widespread infestation, Stromectol (ivermectin), an oral medication, may be used. The number of doses given depends upon the severity of the case. It may be given on days 1, 2, and 8, days 1, 2, 8, 9, and 15, or on days 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 22, and 29. Safety has not been established in children or pregnant women.
The cost of 5% permethrin cream starts around $20 for a 60-gram tube. To find the least expensive pharmacy near you, and to obtain a coupon, visit the GoodRX permethrin page.
Where can I get treated for scabies?
QuickMD can treat you for scabies remotely via telemedicine. Our doctors can prescribe permethrin or any of the other treatments online directly to your pharmacy. Get in touch with a QuickMD provider to get your treatment started.