Pubic Lice (Crabs) Symptoms and Diagnosis

Pubic lice, or "crabs," is a parasitic infestation transferred through sexual contact. They usually take root in pubic hair near the genitals, or rarely, other similar body hair, such as leg, armpit or facial hair. Pubic lice are different from head lice, which only are only found on the head.

A pubic louse is a very small insect, bearing resemblance to a tiny crab. They have six legs, the first two of which are bigger and have pincher claws. They are bland in color, either a tan or a gray.

The female louse will lay eggs, or nits. The female lays her nits by attaching them to hair shafts. Nits take approximately one week to hatch. When an egg hatches, it produces a nymph. A nymph looks just like an adult louse, but smaller. The nymph must feed on human blood in order to survive, and takes about another week to grow into an adult. The adult louse continues to feed on human blood, and the females continue to lay more nits. A female louse can lay up to 30 nits over her lifespan.

The rate and severity of infestation is dependant upon how many female, adult lice are initially contracted. In instances where there are few, it may take a sufferer up to a month to notice an infection. The first clue to an infestation will be itching in the affected area.

Upon inspection, a sufferer will find living lice or nits. Symptoms can become more extreme at night, when lice typically become more active and more prone to feed. Occasionally, one may experience inflammation in the area if a reaction to the louse's saliva or bite occurs. Scratching can worsen the inflammation and also help lice to spread. Pubic lice are transferred almost exclusively by sexual contact.

Since lice need human blood to survive, lice cannot be transferred to humans by animals. Lice are often unable to live for very long off a human host. If a louse is detached from its host, it will die within 2 days. That makes catching lice from inanimate objects, such as toilet seats, very rare.

Occasionally, lice may be transferred by sharing towels, clothing or bedding. If there are only a few lice in an area (such as in a mild infestation of the eyelashes or eyebrows) the nit and lice may be combed out and removed with a nit comb.

Other more extreme infestations (such as the more common occurrence of infestation in the genital area) can be treated with an over-the-counter shampoo, the same as used to remove head lice, and by then carefully combing through the hair to remove nits and any remaining lice.

However, some shampoos can contain harsh chemicals and not be safe to use in the pubic area. Some non-chemical shampoos, such as Genitrex, can also be used. Genitrex uses enzymes to dissolve the glue that holds the nits to the hair shaft and other natural ingredients that penetrate through the exoskeleton of a louse and then allow the dead lice to be rinsed away.

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