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Genital scabies is a skin condition caused by mite that burrow underneath the skin. It is characterized by intense itching and a scabies rash. The condition can be contracted through both sexual and nonsexual contact.
Scabies can occur nearly anywhere on the body, but, when it occurs in the private area, it is called genital scabies. Sarcoptes scabiei, the insect-like scabies mite, burrow underneath the skin and lay eggs. The burrowing causes an allergic reaction, resulting in bumps, blisters, and intense itching in the genitals. Symptoms of the condition might not appear for up to six weeks.
Another characteristic of scabies is its highly contagious nature. Genital scabies in particular can be spread through nonsexual skin-to-skin contact, and sometimes through sharing clothing or other items with someone who has the condition. When this condition is contracted through sexual contact, it is considered a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) or sexually-transmitted infection (STI). Young adults often contract genital scabies via sexual transmission.
Treating genital scabies is usually the same as treating the condition elsewhere on the body. Doctors prescribe a special chemical cream that kills the mite after just a few applications, though the itching might continue for several weeks. Often, the cream has to be applied all over the body from the neck down in case scabies mites have affected more than one area of the body. Some patients take oral medication instead, especially those who have compromised immune systems or whose scabies have become crusted, and thus more contagious and difficult to treat.
As with other types, doctors recommend that patients with genital scabies eliminate any scabies mite or eggs in the patient's home. Patients are typically instructed to either dry-clean or wash and dry all clothes and linens using detergent and high heat. Doctors might also suggest that the patient's sexual partners also be treated, even if partners show no signs of the condition. Condoms and other barrier methods do not always prevent scabies transmission, as the mites and eggs can exist in areas not covered by these devices. Limiting sexual partners does decrease the likelihood of contracting scabies as an STD or STI.
Many skin conditions and STDs have symptoms that are similar to those associated with genital scabies. Doctors recommend that patients with symptoms seek professional attention to ensure appropriate treatment and lessen complications caused by scabies or any other conditions.