It is an infestation of the top layer of skin caused by the parasite, often called scabies or mites. The female parasite nestles under the skin and begins laying eggs within a few hours of infection and continues to lay 2 to 3 eggs daily. It takes approximately 10 days for the eggs to hatch and become adult mites. After hatching, the newly formed mites leave the burrow and move to other skin surfaces and repeat the cycle.
Common places of infestation in the body are: webs and sides of fingers and toes, pubic and groin area, armpits, bends of elbows and knees, wrists, navel, breasts, lower portion of buttocks, penis and scrotum, waist and abdomen; rarely, they are found on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet and the neck upward. For an individual who has never been infected with scabies, symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to begin. For a person who has had scabies, symptoms appear within several days. You do not become immune to an infestation.
The most common symptoms are severe itching especially at night and over most of the body, grayish-white lines or tracks that zigzag on the skin surface, sores on the body caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria.
Scabies spreads quickly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in hospitals, child-care facilities, and nursing homes. Scabies may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding, sexual encounter may also result in infestation. Individuals with weakened immune systems and the elderly are at risk for a more severe form of scabies, called Norwegian or crusted scabies.
Other sources of information for these topics.
Division of Parasitic Diseases - Scabies Fact Sheet
Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes ... Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent ...
Scabies, Scabies, Itch Mite - Safe Treatments
So What's Itching you? Information on scabies from Stephen Tvedten's book.
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