Itchy Skin From Parasites

woman has dry skin and calluses on the feet
A woman has itchy feet. (Image: Astrid Gast/iStock/Getty Images)

The majority of skin parasites are worms or very small insects that make your skin their home after burrowing into it, according to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Some parasites live out their entire life cycle in your skin, while others only live out a portion of it. Parasitic infections of the skin often cause itchy, inflamed skin.

Why Itching Occurs

Lice, bedbugs and fleas cause itching because when they bite to feed, their saliva causes an allergic reaction and local irritation, according to The Travel Doctor. Scabies cause itching because when a female mite burrows into your skin and lays eggs, she produces secretions that result in an allergic reaction, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. This creates a rash of itchy hive-like, little red bumps. Mites, like chiggers, inject a skin-dissolving saliva into their host and consume the liquefied skin, resulting in itching, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Symptoms

All parasitic skin infections cause itching. Bedbug bites cause papules that are red and itchy. Lice cause pink papules and intense itching. Scabies cause lesions in the areas they are present, as well as intense itching. Mites cause itchy papules, irritation and rashes, according to The Regents of University of California, Davis Campus Bohart Museum of Entomology. Flea bites cause the bite site to become swollen, itchy, irritated and inflamed. The symptoms of itchy skin may include redness, dry or cracked skin, bumps, blisters, spots, leathery skin texture or scaly skin texture, according to MayoClinic.com. Irritated skin shares many of the same symptoms of itchy skin, but irritated skin may also be painful, burning or tingling, thickened, red, flaky or stinging.

Complications

If you scratch the itchy areas associated with skin parasites, the swelling and itching could last for as long as two months and since our fingernails may contain bacteria, this may result in infection, according to The Regents University of California, Davis Campus, Bohart Museum of Entomology. Itching and scratching long-term may also lead to neurodermatitis, a condition in which the skin becomes leathery and thick due to frequent scratching, according to MayoClinic.com. The patches of leathery, thick skin may be red, darker than your other skin or raw. Changes in skin color and permanent scars may also occur.

Treatment

The itching associated with skin parasites may be relieved by treating the underlying parasitic infection and applying wet dressings to the itching area. Certain medications may also be helpful, such as corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamines, according to the MayoClinic website.

Prevention

Preventing bedbugs, fleas and lice involves avoiding contact with infected people, practicing good hygiene and keeping your home clean and free of these parasites. Preventing scabies involves avoiding contact with infected people. Preventing mites involves avoiding contact with people and animals who may be infected with them.

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