Is scabies incurable?

Is scabies incurable?

Dear Doctor,

I’m a 32-year old man and unemployed. Four years ago at the university, I contracted scabies which covered my arms and some parts of the body. It took months and visits to different hospitals before the rashes were eventually cleared. However, I keep having a reoccurrence of the rashes on my palm and between the fingers and this has persisted. Two years ago, a doctor prescribed hydrocortisone which clears the rashes but this is usually for as long as I keep applying it. I stopped using it six months ago because I was told that a long term use is dangerous. Now, the rashes are back in between my fingers. They are beginning to spread to the palms and I’m forced to buy hydrocortisone again. Doctor, does it mean scabies are incurable? Just how dangerous is hydrocortisone? Please help.

Sina, FESTAC town

Dr. Okon says:

No, it’s treatable!

I’m always happy when I see people genuinely concerned about their health, because “a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.”

Let me start from the last question: Hydrocortisone is a kind of drug under the category we call steroids and its prolonged use is neither healthy nor advised. Asides making your skin “thinner” and can cause stretch marks, it may increase your risk of having adrenal gland problems. It is not an anti-parasitic medication but it can relieve the discomfort and itching caused by the disease.

Now let’s talk about Scabies:

What is Scabies?

Scabies is a contagious, intensely itchy skin condition caused by a tiny, burrowing mite, Sarcoptes scabei (itchy mite) It spreads quickly through close physical contact in a family, school or nursing home. Anyone can get scabies. 

How is Scabies transmitted?

It can be contracted by skin-to-skin contact (handshakes or hugs).

What are the symptoms?

– Intense itching, especially at night

– Raised rash or spots. The spots may look red. Though they are more difficult to see on dark skin, you should be able to feel them. The rash can appear anywhere but it often starts between the fingers.

Scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head. However, older people, young children and those with a weakened immune system may develop a rash on their head and neck.

Treatment for scabies often includes:.

  • A skin cream with chemicals that kill mites that cause scabies and their eggs.
  • Sulfur cream is also a scabies treatment that can be applied overnight, rinsed off and then reapplied for five nights in a row. 
  • An oral anti-parasitic drug – Benzyl benzoate cream

Non-Medical Treatment

 – Wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50c or higher on the first day of treatment

 – Put clothing that cannot be washed in a sealed bag for 3 days until the mites die

 – Do not share bedding, clothing or towels with someone with scabies

 – Although the treatment kills the scabies mites quickly, the itching can carry on for a few weeks.

Complications of scabies

  • Scratching the rash can cause skin infections like impetigo.
  • Scabies can make conditions like eczema or psoriasis worse.

Stay healthy.,


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