Pubic lice, commonly known as crabs, are tiny wingless parasites that live on parts of the human body that have hair. Pubic lice are active parasites, capable of moving quickly, but it is a common misunderstanding that lice can jump or fly.
Lice are only capable of crawling. However, the fact that pubic lice can move by crawling and are particularly active is the reason pubic lice are effective parasites.
Pubic Lice: The Locations
It is a common misunderstanding that pubic lice are limited only to the genital areas. This is not true. Pubic lice can survive on any area of the body where there is a blood supply and hair. Pubic lice require blood for food, and hair for reproductive purposes for the placement of nits (lice eggs).
- Pubic Hair
- Underarm Hair
- Chest Hair
How Common Are Pubic Lice?
In the United States, it is approximated that over 3 million people become infected each year. It is more common in the age groups of adolescents and young adults (13-25). However, these parasites are capable of infecting any individual of any age and any socio-economic class.
Pubic Lice: Risk Factors
The most common mode of transmission for pubic lice is through sexual contact. Pubic lice are considered to be a sexually transmitted disease. Being sexually active with multiple sex partners typically increases overall general risk for contraction of pubic lice.
However, transmission is also possible through other physical contact with an individual that has pubic lice, including the sharing of personal items and from certain objects. While it is not common for pubic lice transmission to occur from toilet seats, it is possible.
More commonly, pubic lice are obtained from sheets or blankets. It has been reported that some cases of pubic lice transmissions have occurred from trying clothes on in stores, particularly bathing suits.
Pubic Lice: Lifespan
The adult pubic louse requires a blood meal every twenty four hours for survival. When there is an adequate food supply and environment, an adult pubic louse can survive for approximately one month. However, it is possible for adult pubic lice to survive within bed sheets and linens, feeding at night. The nits (eggs) produced by the adult female lice, require an incubation period of approximately one week before hatching.
Pubic Lice: Symptoms
There is an array of symptoms associated with a pubic lice infestation. The most commonly reported symptom is itching in the genital area. The lice require blood as a food source. Upon biting an individual, saliva secretions enter the body, creating the itching sensation.
The presence of small bites may also be detected. While a rash is not associated with the presence of pubic lice, it is possible for secondary infections to occur due to consistent scratching, which further damages the skin, making the area more susceptible to infections.
It is important to seek treatment for pubic lice, to prevent worsening of the condition, and to reduce the body's susceptibility to secondary infections.