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Mange in Humans

The term mange refers to various skin diseases affecting us humans and other mammals like dogs, cats, foxes, rodents, etc., due to infestation of skin-burrowing mites. This article talks about the various types of mange that occur in humans; their causes, symptoms and treatments.
Vibhuti Gatha
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Mange is a disease caused by microscopic parasites called mites. These mites stay on the upper layer of the skin of an infected individual. They burrow beneath the skin and lay eggs in the burrow. Mites can burrow up to 3 cm and feed on human skin and hair follicle secretion. The act of skin burrowing causes irritation and itching which becomes severe over a period time. The mites live on the host for its entire life cycle, which ends in 10-17 days.
It mostly affects people who come in contact with infected animals or those who work in an enclosed environment such as nursing homes, prisons, etc. It is transferable through skin-to-skin contact, the reason why it is also transmitted sexually. If an individual has suffered from scabies before, the symptoms will develop within four days of infestation. However, in case a person has never suffered from scabies, the symptoms may take between four to six weeks to develop. The treatment depends upon the type and severity of the disease.
Types of Mange
Depending upon the species of mites that affect an individual, mange can be classified into notoedric, sarcoptic and demodectic mange. An aggravated form of sarcoptic mange is called crusted scabies. Let us study all the types in detail.
Notoedric Mange
Notoedric mange, also called feline scabies, is caused by a mite called Notoedres cati. Although it is most commonly seen in cats, humans also get infected if they come in close contact with an infected animal. This mange commonly affects the hands and legs. This condition subsides when the animals are segregated from the human, and does not necessarily need medical attention.
» Symptoms
  • Temporary, minor itching

» Treatment
  • The treatment for notoedric mange usually involves application of topical cream to minimize itching.
  • It is advisable to stay away from the infected animal, since this might aggravate the condition.

Sarcoptic Mange
Sarcoptic mange occurs in both dogs and humans by mites belonging to the genus Sarcoptes. In dogs, it is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var. canis and is called canine scabies. In humans, it is caused by S. scabiei var. hominis and is commonly known as scabies. Humans can also be temporarily infected by S. scabiei var. canis by coming in contact with an infected dog.
» Symptoms
  • Severe itching and red rashes occur around the back of elbows, wrists, webs between fingers, knees, axillary folds, armpits, buttocks, genital area, around the nipples and waist
  • Blisters on palms and feet
  • In young children and babies, the rashes are usually observed on the face, neck, head, palms and feet

» Treatment
  • The treatment of scabies should not be limited to the infected person. All the family members should be treated irrespective of whether they exhibit symptoms or not.
  • Usually, permethrin creams are prescribed to kill the mites along with other medication that reduces itching.

Crusted Scabies
An aggravated form of scabies is known as crusted scabies. This is a more contagious form of scabies and affects people with an impaired immune system, especially the elderly and the disabled. Symptoms of crusted scabies include slight itching, scaly rashes and, thick crusts of skin that contain a very large number of mites and mite eggs. The mites spread even without physical contact, making the disease extremely contagious. Continuous oral and topical treatment is given to the sufferers. Topical creams containing sulfur compounds, benzyl benzoate, crotamiton, lindane, malathion, permethrin and ivermectin are used for treating crusted scabies.

Demodectic Mange
Demodectic mange, also known as demodicosis or red mange, is caused by Demodex spp. of mites. It is caused by mites called D. folliculorum and D. brevis in humans. D. brevis mites live in oil-producing glands of the skin and cause little harm. D. folliculorum, however, causes various skin problem like acne, rosacea and itching. The itching may get worse at night, since these mites are more active in the dark. This mange usually affects the face, eyelashes, eyebrows and ear canal. Individuals with a weak immune system are more susceptible to this mange. Although demodectic mange is usually not transferable from one species to another, D. canis, which commonly infects dogs, can also infect humans due to frequent physical contact. It mainly affects individuals with a weak immune system.
» Symptoms
  • Hair loss
  • Itching (especially around hair follicles)
  • Bumps
  • Rosacea or any kind of redness on the face or scalp
  • Itching of eyebrows and eyelashes
  • Oily skin
  • Swollen nose
  • Acne

» Treatment
  • Permethrin and ivermectin creams are used in treating demodectic mange.
  • Tea tree oils and creams have also proven useful in getting rid of Demodex mites.

Things to Remember
  • Use medication as prescribed by the doctor.
  • Cut your nails and clean them to get rid of the mites and their eggs.
  • Avoid scratching the affected area.
  • Use hot water to wash your clothes, towels and bed linen.
  • As the mites can survive on non-living objects like stuffed toys, seal them in a bag for a week.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner to clean your carpet, furniture and the car interiors as mites or the eggs may be present there.
  • Follow-up with your doctor to ensure that the treatment was successful.

A person suffering from scabies should avoid any kind of close contact with others. It is very important for all the family members to undergo treatment for scabies to avoid re-infection. Maintaining cleanliness is the best way to fight or avoid this condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.