Pubic lice are caused by the species Pthirus pubis, a parasite that requires a suitable host (humans are the only known hosts) to exploit but does not enter the body. These tiny blood-sucking wingless parasites are generally found in the human genitals, thus its names, but can also be found anywhere in the body with coarse hair, which include eyebrows, eyelashes, moustaches, beard and armpits. Pubic lice lay eggs in these areas, called nit. Pubic lice is commonly called crabs.
Pubic lice infestation can occur anywhere in the world and to anyone, but teenagers are the most common victims. Pubic lice are often spread to sexual activity, only from human to human. Animals cannot spread lice to humans. Other types of lice in the body include head lice and body lice.
Causes and Risk Factors of Pubic Lice
Being highly contagious, there are various ways of acquiring pubic lice in the body.
- Being sexually active
- Having sexual intercourse with an infected person or having multiple sexual partners
- Non-sexual bodily contact including kissing and hugging (uncommon)
- Sharing items with an infected person (very uncommon)
Signs and Symptoms of Pubic Lice
Although pubic lice can be seen by the naked eye, it may still be sometimes to detect due to its tiny size, but the following signs and symptoms may help diagnose if one has pubic lice. The signs and symptoms generally show one to three weeks after exposure. These include:
- Visible nits or crawling lice
- Intense itching in the affected area, which usually worsens at night
- Small red bumps
- Blue spots on the skin, especially on the lower abdomen or thighs
- Presence of dark brown or black powder on the skin
- Presence of blood in the underwear
Treatment and Management of Pubic Lice
It is common for people to be ashamed of going to a gynecologist if one suspects pubic lice. There are several non-prescription medications that can be used to treat pubic lice effectively.
- Non-prescription treatments include any lice-killing lotion that contains 1% permethrin or a mousse that contains pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide. Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer.
- Some prescription medications such as Lindane, Elimite or Kwell, may also be used.
- Thoroughly clean the dry pubic hair with shampoo and surrounding area for at least five minutes.
- Rinse well.
- To remove the nits, comb the pubic hair using a fine-toothed comb. Vinegar may be applied to pubic hair may help loosen nits.
- If a second treatment is necessary, do the same process after four to seven days.
- Malathion lotion may also be applied topically to the affected areas.
- Wash all clothing and bedding used by the infected person in hot water.
- If the item cannot be washed, spray the items with medicated spray.
Disclaimer: The steps to be mentioned above do not substitute for medical advice or professional first aid training. To learn how to properly treat pubic lice and other lice in the body, enroll in first aid training.