Scabies at a Glance
- A skin condition
- Common symptoms include intensely itchy, small bumps or rashes
- Treatment is available
- Easily spread through close contact, including sex play
- There are ways to reduce your risk of infection
What is scabies?
Scabies (pronounced skay-bees) is an itchy skin condition caused by tiny parasites. It's passed through skin-to-skin contact, usually during sex. Scabies isn't dangerous and can be cured.
Scabies is a skin condition
Scabies is caused by scabies mites — tiny, insect-like parasites that infect the top layer of your skin. Scabies causes rashes, irritation, and a ton of itching. It's easily spread to other people during skin-to-skin touching.
Scabies mites burrow underneath the top layer of your skin and lay eggs. The eggs lead to more mites, but most people with scabies only have about 10-15 mites on their body at a time. The mites are super small so you might not see them, but you'll probably notice the itching and irritation they cause.
Scabies can be really uncomfortable, but it's usually not dangerous. It can be cured with medicated creams or pills.
How is scabies contracted?
Scabies is spread by direct skin-to-skin touching. This usually happens during sex, especially when your bodies are touching or close for a long time (like if you sleep in a bed together).
Most adults get scabies from sex, but you can get it other ways, too. Scabies can be spread to other people in your home, and it's common in crowded places that may have lots of close skin contact (like nursing homes, prisons, and child care places). You can sometimes get scabies from sharing an infected person's clothes, towels, or bedding.
It's very hard to get scabies from quick, casual touching, like handshakes or hugs. You also can't usually get scabies from toilet seats. Most of the time, it takes lots of close, personal contact with an infected person for scabies to spread.