Scabies happens when a female mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs. The scabies mite does not suck blood or transmit disease.

Scabies spreads easily from person to person through:

  • Close, long-term physical contact
  • Sexual contact

Scabies can also spread from person to person by sharing:

  • Clothing
  • Towels
  • Bedding

A person can also get scabies from certain mammals. It is most common from dogs with sarcoptic mange. Scabies from dogs differs from human scabies. It rarely passes from person to person.

Risk Factors

Scabies is more common in children younger than 15 years of age and adults older than 65 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Sexual contact with a new partner or more than one partner
  • Close, physical contact with a person who has scabies
  • Living in close quarters with others, such as in a nursing home or military barracks
  • A weakened immune system
  • Close contact with an animal that has scabies



Symptoms of scabies are:

  • Intense itching that is usually worse at night
  • Small red bumps, pimples, or lines on the skin

The infested area in people with severe symptoms may:

  • Appear crusty
  • Discharge pus

Scabies rarely affects the face or head. It is more common on the:

  • Hands, especially between the fingers
  • Wrists and elbows
  • Feet
  • Genitals and pubic area (especially in men)
  • Buttocks
  • Around the nipples (especially in women)
  • Waistline
  • Belly button and lower belly
  • Areas where clothing is tight
  • Area under rings, watches, or jewelry


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. If the diagnosis is not clear, a skin sample may be taken to look for signs of infestation.



The goal of treatment is to remove the scabies from the body. This can be done with anti-parasitic medicine. It may be applied to the skin or taken by mouth.

It may take several weeks for itching to go away. These medicines may be given to provide relief:

  • Antihistamine
  • Corticosteroid cream
  • Antihistamines and corticosteroids

Steps will also need to be taken to avoid re-infestation. All bedding and clothing must be thoroughly washed. Other members of the household should also be treated.


The risk of this problem may be lowered by avoiding close physical or sexual contact with anyone who has scabies or an undiagnosed, itchy rash.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.