30th January 2020
Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are tiny blood-sucking insects. They live in coarse human body hair, most commonly pubic hair, and cause itching and red spots.
The lice can also be found in:
the eyelashes or eyebrows
hair on the abdomen or back
facial hair, such as beards or moustaches.
Adult pubic lice are about 2mm long and are grey-brown in colour.
Pubic lice are caught through close contact with someone who has them. The most common way is during sexual contact.
There's not enough evidence to say whether pubic lice can be transferred through items such as bedding or towels, although some experts think that it might be possible.
Pubic lice only affect humans and do not live on other animals. They can affect people of any age, but are most commonly found in young adults.
Tests and treatment
A doctor or nurse can usually tell if you have pubic lice just by looking. Pubic lice can usually be successfully treated with insecticide lotions, available over-the-counter in most pharmacies, or from a GP or sexual health clinic.
If pubic lice were caught through sexual contact, any current sexual partners and partners from the previous three months may need to be informed and treated.