Pubic lice (also known as crabs) is an infestation of a small, wingless insect that live in the skin and suck blood. Pubic lice are not the same as other kinds of lice, and are most often spread by person-to-person contact, including shared clothing or bedding. Lice live globally.

Pubic lice primarily inhabit the pubic hair around the genitals and anus, and are spread typically by sexual contact. Children may catch them through close contact with parents, towels, bedding, and clothing. The chest hair, facial hair (including eyelashes) and thigh hair can be infested.

Symptoms of pubic lice

  • Severe itching
  • Visible eggs or lice
  • Bites cause small, red pinpoints in the skin
  • Bites can cause bluish grey spots on chest, buttocks and thighs
  • Possibly swollen lymph nodes
  • Secondary bacterial infection on scratching sites
  • Eyelash infestations cause eye itching, burning, and irritation

Diagnosis

Pubic lice are found by ultraviolet light or with a microscope. They can leave dark brown specks of faeces on the skin or underwear.

Treatment

Pubic lice can be removed by shaving the pubic areas affected. Additionally, pubic lice can be treated with shampoos and creams designed for any type of lice. Wash all affected clothing, towels and bedding in hot water, or dry clean. Anything that can’t be laundered or dry cleaned should be kept in airtight plastic bags for two weeks to kill the lice.

Drugs can be used to treat pubic lice, but you need to really be thorough, since lice can become resistant to certain drugs and be harder to kill. Some medication can be taken orally to kill the lice via the blood.

Sexual partners should also be treated.

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