(Last Updated on : 22/02/2013)
Scabies is a contagious skin infection that is caused by Sarcoptes Scabiei or the Itch Mite, a parasite. The parasite hides under the affected person's skin, causing intense allergic itching. It is often referred to as the 7 year itch and the disease is transmitted through direct skin contact or also from objects. Early infections require 4 to 6 weeks to be indicative. Re-infection might illustrate symptoms with in 24 hours. Crusted scabies is a more brutal form of the infection usually linked with Immunosuppression. This form of Scabies is more common among people who reside in crowded places under unhygienic conditions, like slums. Children under the age of 15 years are mostly affected by this disease. Scabies may affect various domestic and wild animals as well. Scabies or the 7 year itch can be successfully treated with several types of medicines. The most effective among them is Permethrin cream.
Symptoms of Scabies
The disease is characterised by severe itching and it tends to be more marked at night or after a hot bath. This is due to increased activity of the parasite because of the greater warmth of the body. The common places for scabies are the genital areas, the space between the fingers, the front surface of the wrists, around the elbows, under the armpits, around the nipples, along the belt-line, and on the lower part of the buttocks. In infants, burrows are often present on the palms on the trunk. The burrow made by the itch mite appears as a fine, wavy, dark line, if it can be seen at all.
Scabies often causes swelling, as well as scratch marks and local eczema over the irritated areas and this may cover up the tiny tunnels, so that they will not be seen. Infected individuals with good personal hygiene, usually have few lesions and burrows there by making it difficult to identify. In infants, the symptoms of scabies include pustules and blisters on the palms and soles of the feet. People suffering from crusted scabies or Norwegian scabies display scaly rashes, thick crusts of skin containing thousands of mites, with slight itching. Mostly aged people or individuals with weakened immune system are vulnerable to crusted scabies.
Causes of Scabies
The female itch mite, measuring 0.4 mm, burrows under the outer layer of the skin and deposits her eggs along the tunnel. Within a few days, the larvae hatch and tend to congregate around the hair follicles of the skin. The disease is transmitted from person to person by close bodily contact, particularly among family members. Those who spend nights with friends or exchange clothing with others are at increased risk. Prolonged holding of hand is also a frequent means for spreading the disease.
Treatment of Scabies by Nature Cure
Currently, there are various natural treatments available for Scabies, which have been discussed as follows-
Diet for Scabies
During the treatment period, the patient should be given light foods, preferably fresh juicy fruits such as orange, apple, pineapple, pear, peaches and melon. Warm water enema should he used daily during this period to ensure regular bowel movements.
Home Remedies for Scabies
As the disease is contagious, the suffering patient and all the affected members of the family should be treated simultaneously. Certain home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of scabies. The oldest and the most effective of treatments is the application of a paste, prepared by mixing 2 teaspoons of sublimed sulphur with 8 tablespoons of coconut oil. The whole body should be soaked for 20 minutes in a warm-bath using plenty of soap. Particular attention should be paid to the itching areas scrubbing them thoroughly.
After the bath, a paste should be rubbed well over the entire skin surface, below the chin line, but particularly over the affected areas. This should be done for 3 successive nights, wearing the same under-clothing during this period. About 10 to 12 hours after the last application, a hot-soap bath should be taken and a clean under-clothing and outside clothing should be worn. All clothes next to the skin, bed sheets and pillowcases should be boiled in hot water and occasionally sun-dried.
The use of apricot leaves is one such valuable remedy. Fresh juice of these leaves should be extracted and applied with beneficial results in scabies. Application of the juice of mint leaves over the affected areas has also proved valuable in treating this disease. The use of bitter gourd has proved beneficial in the treatment of this disease. Half a cup of juice of this vegetable should be taken mixed with one teaspoon of lime juice. This juice should be sipped slowly on an empty stomach once daily for a week or so. The flour of unroasted Bengal gram is a very effective cleansing agent. Washing the skin with this flour will be beneficial in treating scabies.
Another effective treatment for Scabies is that of Benzyl-Benzoate. After a warm soap bath, as mentioned above, a mixture of equal parts of soap, ethyl alcohol and benzyl benzoate should be brushed for 5 minutes, while still wet. It should be allowed to dry and again painted for 5 minutes. After it is dry, the same old clothes should be worn. A bath should be taken after 24 hours and clean clothing should be worn. Benzyl-Benzoate, being an irritant, should be diluted to half the strength, if it is used for treating babies. Any of the other regimes can be used in the treatment of young children. Recently, Gamuna Benzene lotion is being used in place of benzyl-benzoate, as it is effective and less irritating to skin. Its burrows are present on the head and neck areas in babies; they can be treated with topical Eurax cream.
The use of topical permethrin or oral ivermectin has proved to be effective in curing scabies in various mass treatment programs. At present, there is no vaccine available for the treatment of scabies.