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What is a Scabies Burrow?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Parasitic mites that dig into an individual’s skin cause scabies infections. Each mite leaves a small caverns in the flesh called a scabies burrow. The burrows actually look like a line in the person’s flesh, and sometimes they are darker than the surrounding skin. Sometimes a scabies burrow is very difficult for a person to see, and magnification might even be required to make it visible. In general, the scabies burrow is a relatively distinctive symptom, and it can help doctors make a diagnosis.

Scabies mites cause a rash to form that can be extremely itchy. When people develop a scabies rash, they may not realize what it is right away, since the rash doesn’t necessarily look that different from many other skin disorders. Doctors can even have difficulty identifying a scabies rash, and they may need to take a skin sample for testing to be certain, or they may look for a scabies burrow, which can be another useful sign.

After scabies infections are treated, the mites involved in the infection leave behind their own carcasses and other debris in the scabies burrows. The human body can’t generally tolerate the presence of these particles, and the immune system will usually attack them. This leads to new itching and new sores that form small pustules as the particles are being forced out of the skin. In extremely severe scabies infections, this process may take a very long time, but it is temporary.

Scabies burrows and rashes tend to form in places where skin contacts other skin. This would include places like the inner thigh or in-between an individual’s fingers. The rashes often spread from one place to another as a person itches and transfers mites to other areas on his body. Scabies mites are also very contagious from one person to another, and people can even spread them by coming into contact with common items like bedclothes.

Treating scabies usually involves the application of various creams on the skin in the area where the scabies burrows are present. Even after this treatment, it can potentially take a few weeks to totally clear up the infection. A person who is infected with scabies may also be advised to get rid of bedclothes and other things that may be contaminated with the mites. There is often a great deal of effort devoted to avoiding the spread of a scabies infection because of its extreme contagiousness. For example, it is generally very easy for a big scabies epidemic to occur, especially in places where people come in close contact, like a school.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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