Scabies is a contagious, itchy skin condition caused by a tiny mite. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million people at any time and more than 400 million people worldwide get scabies each year.
The mite—called the human itch mite—is an eight-legged bug that’s so small that you can’t see it on the skin. When the mite burrows into the top layer of skin to live and feed, an extremely itchy rash develops. The mite can travel from the infected person to another person. Most people get scabies from direct, skin-to-skin contact. People can also pick up mites from infested items such as bedding, clothes and furniture. Anyone can get scabies, even if you’re very clean and neat.
The symptoms of scabies include:
- Itching, mainly at night: The itch can be so intense that it keeps a person awake at night
- Rash: This rash causes little bumps that often form a line. The bumps can look like hives, tiny bites, knots under the skin, or pimples. Some people develop scaly patches that look like eczema
- Sores: Scratching the itchy rash can cause sores. An infection can develop in the sores
- Thick crusts on the skin: Crusts form when a person develops a severe type of scabies called crusted scabies. With so many mites burrowing in the skin, the rash and itch become severe