What are pubic lice?
Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are tiny insects found in the genital area. Pubic lice measure about 1.6 millimeters in size and are often called crabs due to their resemblance to small crabs.
The most common way to catch pubic lice is through sexual contact. However, you may contract pubic lice after sharing clothing, bed linen, or towels with an infected person.
Pubic lice feed on blood, and their bite can cause severe itching. Treatment options include using over-the-counter creams and prescription lotions that kill the lice and their eggs.
What are the symptoms of pubic lice?
If you have pubic lice, you may feel intense itching in the genital area. Pubic lice can spread to other parts of the body that have coarse body hair, including:
- The legs
- The chest
- Beard or mustache
- Eyelashes, or eyebrows
What are the causes of pubic lice?
Pubic lice are usually transmitted during sexual activity. You can also get pubic lice from contaminated sheets, blankets, towels, or clothing.
It should be noted that people with other sexually transmitted infections are more likely to get pubic lice.
How are pubic lice diagnosed?
You or a doctor can confirm a diagnosis of a pubic lice infestation by visually examining the pubic area. The presence of moving lice confirms the presence of the infection.
Lice eggs (nits) can also be a sign of infection. However, nits can get stuck in hair and are also found after successful treatment, albeit not alive.
How are pubic lice treated?
If over-the-counter cream or shampoo products did not help to eliminate pubic lice, your doctor might prescribe stronger treatments, such as:
- Malathion (Ovid). Apply the lotion to the affected area and wash it off after eight to 12 hours.
- Ivermectin (Stromectol). This medication is taken as a single dose of two tablets, with an option to take a second dose after ten days if the treatment is not initially effective.
- Lindane. Because of its toxicity, Lindane is usually prescribed only when other treatments have failed. Lindane is placed on the affected area and rinsed after four minutes. It is not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, infants, young children, and the elderly.
If you find pubic lice in eyelashes and eyebrows, it is best to visit a doctor to receive immediate treatment. If additional treatment is required, your doctor may prescribe medication and/or a topical ointment.
All areas that have hair on the body should be thoroughly examined and treated because lice may move from the treated areas to other parts of the body that have hair. Shaving will not get rid of pubic lice.