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The most common symptom of pubic lice is itching near your genitals. You may also see crabs or eggs in your pubic hair.

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Pubic lice symptoms

Usually, the symptoms of pubic lice start about 5 days after you get them. Some people never have symptoms, or they think the symptoms are caused by something else (like a rash).

The most common symptom of pubic lice is intense itching in your pubic area. The itching and irritation is caused by your body’s reaction to the crabs’ bites.  

Pubic lice symptoms include:

  • Lots of itching in your genital area.

  • Super small bugs in your pubic hair. You can usually see pubic lice by looking closely, or you may need to use a magnifying glass. Pubic lice are tan or whitish-gray, and they look like tiny crabs. They get darker when they’re full of blood.

  • Crab eggs (called nits) on the bottom part of your pubic hairs. Nits are really small and can be hard to see. They’re oval and yellow, white, or pearly. Nits usually come in clumps.

  • Dark or bluish spots on the skin where pubic lice are living. These spots come from the crabs’ bites.

  • Feeling feverish, run-down, or irritable.

Crabs usually hang out in your pubic hair around your genitals, which is why it’s easy to get them from sex. But crabs can sometimes end up in other kinds of coarse hair, like your eyelashes, eyebrows, chest hair, armpits, beard, or mustache. It’s really, really rare to get pubic lice in the hair on top of your head.

More questions from patients:

What are the long-term effects of having pubic lice (crabs)?

Even though pubic lice can be uncomfortable, they don’t cause any serious health problems in the long term.  

It’s usually easy to get rid of them with over-the-counter medicines. It’s a good idea to treat pubic lice, because if you don’t get rid of them you can end up with:

  • Discolored spots on your skin where the crabs have been feeding.

  • Skin infections from scratching your skin too much. 

  • Eye irritation from rubbing your eyes. Crabs can live in your eyelashes and eyebrows. 

Pubic lice treatments are easy to use and come in gels, shampoos, liquids, and foam. Most are sold over-the-counter in drugstores, so you can buy them without getting a prescription from a nurse or doctor. However, speak to a nurse or doctor if your pubic lice won’t go away after multiple treatments, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or have any rashes or severe irritation from scratching.

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