Scabies is a contagious skin condition where the main symptom is intense itching. It is caused by tiny mites which burrow into the skin and can be spread through:

  • skin-to-skin contact for long periods of time with someone who is infected

  • sexual contact with someone who is infected

  • sharing clothing, towels and bedding with someone who is infected (this is less likely than getting the infection through skin-to-skin contact).

The incubation period (the time it takes for symptoms to show after infection) for scabies is up to eight weeks.

Scabies like warm places on the skin, such as skin folds, between the fingers, under fingernails or around the buttock or breast creases.

They can also hide under watch straps or bracelets, and in the skin on the finger under rings.

Tests and treatment

A doctor or nurse can usually tell if you have scabies just by looking at the affected area. It is not usually a serious condition, but the intense itching can be unpleasant and have an adverse effect on a person's quality of life.

However, the itching that is caused by scabies can usually be effectively treated using topical treatments (skin creams).

Scabies can lead to a secondary skin infection if the skin becomes irritated and inflamed through excessive itching.