Medical Specialties: Family practice, Pediatrics

Clinical Definition

Scabies is a medical condition caused by an infestation of the epidermis by a microscopic mite, the Sarcoptes scabiei. Any area of the body can be affected, but the groin, popliteal (behind the knee) and inter-digital regions are the most common sites. This mite burrows under the human epidermis, where it then lives and reproduces. Scabies can become severe in individuals who are immunocompromised. 

In Our Own Words

Scabies is a treatable skin condition caused by a small “itch mite” that tunnels under the skin and lays eggs. Highly contagious, this condition can be spread by close, skin-to-skin contact. Common sites of infestation include between the fingers, behind the knee and the groin area. Treatment involves symptom relief as well as getting rid of the mites and their eggs.

The scabies mite does not cause other diseases other than symptoms of scabies. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. People who have a decreased immune system may sometime develop a more severe form of scabies known as Norwegian scabies.  

Relevant Conditions
  • Infectious diseases
  • Norwegian scabies
Side Effects
  • Rash and itching
  • Crusty skin in severe cases
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  • Stanford Medical Center. Diseases, Scabies. Accessed July 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. Diseases and Conditions: Scabies. Accessed July 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. “Scabies, mite treatment.” Last reviewed Nov. 20, 2012. Accessed Sept. 2013.
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