Crabs: Symptoms of Pubic Lice

Crabs, officially called pubic lice, affect more than 3 million Americans every year. Transmitted through sexual intercourse or close contact with infected towels, bedding, or clothing, pubic crabs are easy to catch and pass on to other people. Luckily, they are also easy to treat and pose no serious threat to your health.

What are Crabs?
Crabs are actually parasites that infest areas of the body, clinging to rough or coarse hair. They mostly infest the genital area but they can also cling to the legs, arms, eyebrows, eyelashes, mustaches, and beards. Genital crabs are tiny and difficult to see, especially when they aren't fully grown. However, if you look hard enough you should see some flat, brown or white insects crawling around in your hair. Fully-grown crabs are about the size of a sesame seed. They can live for up to thirty days and mate frequently. Females crabs can lay over 50 eggs during their short lives.

Crabs begin their life as nits, which are tiny white or yellow eggs that are bound to your hair's follicles. After seven days, the nits will hatch producing nymphs. Nymphs look just like adult crabs, only smaller. Nymphs mature in about 10 days and, as adults, will live for about 30 days.

Adult crabs usually appear as a tan, white, or gray color although they turn dark red after feeding. They have six legs, two of which resemble crab pincers. An adult crab grows to about the size of a sesame seed

Symptoms of Crabs
Crabs will not produce any serious symptoms and should not affect your health to a significant degree. However, you will experience some intense itching, especially at night when the crabs come out to feed. As they feed, the genital crabs release a substance that causes your skin to feel itchy. Try not to scratch too much as this could break the skin and cause lesions.

You may find bluish spots where the crabs have been feeding. As they bite into the skin, bluish marks appear where any blood has been withdrawn. You may also notice dark spots on your skin or underwear. These spots are the crab feces and indicate a definite infection. It is also not uncommon to feel irritated and run down and even have a slight fever.

Consequences of Crab Infection
Generally speaking, pubic crabs pose no serious harm to your body. However, it is not recommended to let your infection continue without treatment. Crabs will not go away on their own and could cause skin damage from frequent feeding. Your skin may become infected if you scratch too much.

If you notice pus in the area, or any open sores, consult your doctor. If you begin to experience a high fever or an unusual discharge it is also necessary to see the doctor. A correlation has been found between pubic crabs and other sexually transmitted diseases. More than 30% of people infected with crabs also have another STD. Therefore, it is important to use condoms, and to abstain from sex while you are still experiencing symptoms.

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