Symptoms and causes

Scabies is a contagious and annoying skin infection caused by the mange mite. This is a small spider-like parasite that nests in the superficial layer of skin or the horny layer. The infection is transmitted through human dander that is infected with the mange mite. You can get scabies through physical contact for longer than 15 minutes or by sleeping with sheets or wearing clothes that are contaminated.

The main symptoms people experience is itching. Itching is present all over the body, but mostly in the warm places such as the body folds. Itching is most pronounced at night and can be so intense that it can disturb sleep. You can also see bumps on the skin, usually between the fingers or toes and on the wrists or ankles.

Diagnosis and treatment

The diagnosis is made based on what the dermatologist sees with the naked eye and usually also with the dermatoscope. The mite can be seen with the dermatoscope at the end of a tunnel. In order to treat scabies correctly, not only the patient, but everyone in the family and people with whom the patient has close contact, should be treated. It is also important to wash all clothing and sheets from the last three days at 60°C or keep them in a sealed bag for three days if they cannot be washed at this temperature.

The first choice of treatment in Belgium is a cream treatment with Zalvor (permetrine 5% cream). It should be applied from head to toe in the evening, left on for the entire night and washed off in the morning. This treatment should be repeated after a week.

Sometimes, we notice that this treatment is inadequate. In that case, there are other cream treatments (benzyl benzoate cream). These are made by the pharmacist and are applied following a different schedule. There is also a pill treatment with Stromectol (ivermectin). The tablets are only available through the hospital pharmacy or must be imported from abroad.

Treatment centres and specialisations


Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Van Autryve Els