Pubic Lice: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

One of the most embarrassing conditions that one can have, would be pubic lice – a condition that one instantly connects with poor hygiene and insanitary living conditions. But did you know that having pubic lice is actually a sexually transmitted disease?

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice (also known as crabs or crab louse) are tiny parasitic insects that infest any of the areas of the body that have hair: the head, underarm hair, armpit hair, and the eyebrows and even in cases the eyelashes, as well as pubic hair. Though these infestations are found most often in thepubic area, in men, they may be found even in the abdominal region, beard and moustache.

We look at causes, symptoms and treatments of pubic lice.

Causes of pubic lice

Close physical contact with an infected person is the usual way for the transmission of these tiny insects since sweat and other body fluids are the primary means of transmission. It is most often through sexual contact that pubic lice spread.

However, head lice can spread though non sexual contact as well; such as in school settings and so on.

Toilet seats are not a mode of transmission as commonly believed, but there could be transmission within the family due to shared towels, closets or bed linen. For this reason if one family member is diagnosed with lice, the entire family should be checked.

Symptoms of pubic lice

Itching and visible signs of lice – the nits (eggs) nymphs (baby lice) and adult lice are the main symptoms of pubic lice. Even if the crawling lice cannot be seen, the presence of the nits shows that there is an infestation that needs treatment. Though the insects are large enough to be seen, sometimes a magnifying glass may be needed to detect their presence.

Treatment for pubic lice

Topical applications such as lotions or creams or liquids containing ingredients such as permethrin (1%) or pyrethrins or piperonyl butoxide are the most effective solutions for crab lice. These are available over the counter and do not require a prescription but one needs to be careful about using them only as directed. The treatment is generally repeated after 10 days.

In the meantime sheets, towels and other items of personal hygiene should be removed and thoroughly washed.

In some resistant cases, Lindane shampoo can be used, however this should only be taken under medical supervision owing to its possible side effects.