Medical Dermatology


Scabies, also known as the “seven-year itch,” is a contagious skin disease caused by the “itch” mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. Itching, the most common complaint, usually begins within one month of exposure to this mite. It is often severe enough to interrupt sleep. The hands and groin area are the most common affected areas, although it can also be found on the arms, elbows, underarms, buttocks and feet. A scabies infection begins as small blister-type lesions. They then can become thick, scaly and crisscrossed with scratch marks. Patients are usually children or bed-ridden patients, or family members or sexual partners of infected patients.

What Causes It?

Scabies is caused by a mite that burrows into the top layer of the skin. The burrows appear as short, dark, wavy lines on the skin’s surface that resembles a pencil mark. It is transmitted by close contact with other infected individuals, especially among family members who share clothing, towels or bedding.

What Can Be Done?

A single application of a topical lotion such as Elimite® cream is applied over the entire body, usually at bedtime, and must remain on the skin for several hours before it can be washed off. A repeat treatment is required one week later. All members of one’s family should be treated as well. It is important to practice good hygiene. Daily warm (not hot) showers and frequent hand washing help prevent scabies. The scabies treatments can irritate the skin. This is best treated with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser followed by Cetaphil moisturizer and mild topical steroids for inflammation. Clothing, towels and bed linens should be washed in hot water with unscented detergent.