What Causes Pubic Lice?

What Do Pubic Lice Look Like

Pubic lice is a sexually transmitted infestation. The louse itself is a tiny insect, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a miniscule crab. A louse has six legs in all, the front two being bigger and equipped with pincher claws. They are grey or tan in color. The infestation can spread rapidly when the female louse begins to lay eggs. The louse is a parasite. Pubic lice feed on the human blood and need it to survive.

Sexual Contact and Pubic Lice

The number one cause of pubic lice is intercourse or sexual contact with an infested partner. The lice take root predominantly in the pubic hair near the genitals, with a rare but occasional stay in other body hair (leg, armpit, facial). They are unlike head lice, as head lice are only found on the head, and pubic lice are rarely found on the head. Because public lice need human blood to the survive, and are unable to live for more than 2 days without being attached to a human host, close sexual contact is virtually the only way lice can be passed from one person to another. It would be next to impossible to catch lice from a toilet seat. However, lice can be transferred if by sharing towels, clothing or bedding within such a narrow amount of time in between users that the lice are still living and able to pass from the object to the host. This can also occur if an infected person shares a bed with an uninfected person, even if no sexual contact between the two parties occurs. Pubic lice cannot be passed from an animal to a human, or from a human to an animal. Pubic lice can only live on the blood of humans.

Life Cycle of Pubic Lice

The female louse lays her eggs (or nits) by attaching them to hair shafts with a self-produced substance similar to glue. Nits hatch in approximately one week. When eggs hatch, they hatch nymphs. Nymphs are miniature versions of adult lice. They will grow into proper adult size within one week, if they are able to sufficiently feed off their human host. Once a female louse has become an adult, she may start to lay eggs. The female louse lays up to 30 nits within her lifespan. If the infestation begins slowly with only a few female nits, it may take the host up to a month to notice. However, the infestation naturally spreads exponentially, meaning the amount of living, feeding lice can increase rapidly, at a rate that increases in intensity constantly.

Itching, Itching, Itching!

Generally, the infestation is noticed due to an inordinate amount of itching in the infected area. Itching generally becomes more intense at night, when the lice are more active and more inclined to feed. A closer inspection will reveal living lice or their eggs. If a reaction to the louse's saliva or bite should occur, a host may notice redness and inflammation in the affected area. At this point, scratching may increase the inflammation and spread the lice to cover more space.

Infection of Pubic Lice

Sometimes, a milder infection can be taken care of by carefully combing through the area to remove all the living lice as well as their eggs. However, an infestation is usually only this tame if it happens to be in a small area, such as the eyebrows. A more sever infestation, which is more typical, usually requires an over-the-counter shampoo. The shampoo used for pubic lice is similar as used for head lice. After a shampooing, the area can be thoroughly combed through to remove all nits and lingering lice. Some shampoos contain chemicals that are potentially unsafe to be used in the pubic area. It's important to choose a shampoo that will cause no additional damage.

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