Scientifically known as Phthirus pubis, the diagnosis of pubic lice is accomplished in several ways. The most common ways of identification involve actually seeing the presence of lice or lice eggs. In order to make this identification, it is necessary to first know the common characteristics of lice, particularly how to identify a louse.
Pubic Lice: What do They Look Like?
Pubic lice develop in three stages, all of which can be detected visually. Lice look differently throughout these three stages. The three stages include the nit, nymph, and adult.
Stage 1 - The Nit
The nit is actually the pubic lice egg. Often, these eggs can be very small and difficult to see, but are typically found attached firmly to the shaft of hair. The nits are typically oval in shape with a color that varies from a light yellow to white. The egg requires approximately one week before hatching into the second nymph stage.
Stage 2 - The Nymph
The nymph closely resembles the adult louse, but is slightly smaller in size. The nymph requires approximately one week for maturation into the adult louse. The nymph must feed on blood for survival and growth to the adult stage.
Stage 3 - The Adult
The adult pubic lice are grayish-white to tan in color. Adult lice are commonly known as "crabs." This is due to the fact that upon examination through a magnifying glass, the adult pubic louse closely resembles a crab. The adult louse is particularly small, approximately 1 millimeter in diameter, and has six legs, with the front pair of legs closely resembling the claws of a crab. The adult must also feed on blood for survival.
Pubic Lice: Signs and Symptoms
The predominant way that pubic lice are diagnosed is by visually identifying the louse. Lice can be located on the body, the scalp, in clothing, and in areas where body hair is present. Another way is by noticing the presence of lice eggs. However, lice can move quickly, and are known to avoid light. Lice eggs are commonly called nits, and are typically laid on hair shafts. Lice feed on blood, and hence, the presence of small genital lesions may become present. The presence of pubic lice is also accompanied with an intense itching in the genital area. It is commonly noted that this itching worsens at night. This itching commonly causes the opening of smaller lesions and scratches, which can increase the possibility of secondary infections.
Pubic Lice: Prognosis
There exist a wide variety of treatments for a pubic lice infestation. Typically, adequate treatment including the cleaning of all environmental areas (particularly clothing, bedding, towels, etc.) should be enough to eradicate a lice infestation. It is important to seek treatment of pubic lice. If the infestation remains untreated, the possibility for more serious secondary infections is possible. Take time to educate yourself about treatment options, and be sure to discuss any and all questions you may have with your physician.