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Pubic lice: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About pubic lice

Pubic lice (often called "crabs" because of their crab-like appearance under a microscope) are small creatures that infect the pubic hair or the genital area. The concerned group of lice may also be found in armpit hair and in the eyebrows.

Pubic lice: Incidence, age and sex

Pubic lice infestation is found worldwide and occurs in all races, ethnic groups, and all levels of society, affecting both genders equally

Signs and symptoms of pubic lice: Diagnosis

There may be lice infestation without any symptoms, but usually people with pubic lice experience intense itchiness. This may worsen at night when the lice become active and bury their heads inside pubic hair follicles to feed themselves on the person's blood.

Sometimes, continuous bites and the subsequent itching can cause the infested area to become swollen and raw. This may further lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Scratching may also result in the spread of pubic lice to other areas of the body.

In young children, pubic lice may also lead to blepharitis (irritation or infection of the eyelids).

Causes and prevention of public lice

The transmission of pubic lice generally occurs during sexual activity. However, it may also occur through physical contact with contaminated objects such as toilet seats or linen.

Risk factors for pubic lice include being sexually active, having multiple sexual partners with some partners being infected, and sharing bedding or clothing with an infected person.

Avoiding sexual or intimate contact with infected people and good personal hygiene can aid in preventing public lice infestation.

Pubic lice: Complications

Repeated and constant scratching of the affected skin may result in its rawness. Moreover it may also lead to increased chances of secondary bacterial infections.

Pubic lice: Treatment

Pubic lice are best treated with an anti-lice wash. A single treatment is all that is usually needed. Over-the-counter medications are also available for pubic lice. While treating pubic lice, it is advisable to wash all clothing and linen in hot water. Items that cannot be washed may be sprayed with a medicated spray. Antibiotic medications may be needed in cases where secondary bacterial infection has set in. These medications can either be topical agents (skin creams, ointments) for local use or oral tablets.