What is mange?
Mange is a skin condition that’s caused by mites. Mites are tiny parasites that feed and live on or under your skin. Mange can itch and appear as red bumps or blisters.
You can get mange from animals or from human-to-human contact. A common type of mange in humans is known as scabies. Most cases of mange and scabies affect only your skin and are treatable. You should seek immediate medical treatment if you suspect you have the condition. Mange and scabies are highly contagious and may make you susceptible to a secondary infection.
Symptoms of mange in humans
Mange can cause severe itching, redness, and a rash. Mange symptoms will appear up to four weeks after mites infest your skin. Your skin’s sensitivity to the proteins and feces from the mites causes the symptoms. A mite that causes mange in humans stays on the skin approximately 10 to 17 days.
Symptoms of mange include:
- severe itching, particularly at night
- skin rash, sometimes called “scabies rash”
- raised, skin-colored or grayish-white tracts, bumps, or blisters on the surface of the skin, caused from burrows created by female mites
Mange is most likely to affect areas of the body with skin folds. These include:
- finger webbing
- male genital area
- breasts, especially where the skin folds
- inner elbows, wrists, and knees
- bottom of the feet
- shoulder blades
Children may also be affected by mange in areas that include:
- palms of the hand
- soles of the feet
Mange can appear as other conditions. Some of these include:
You should see your doctor if you show any symptoms of mange.
What causes mange?
Humans can get scabies or other types of mange from direct contact with mites that cause the condition. Not all mites cause mange. Some may get onto your skin and cause a temporary allergic reaction that doesn’t need further treatment.
The mite Sarcoptes scabiei causes scabies. These mites burrow into the top layer of the skin and lay eggs. Mange is frequently found in wild and domestic animals.
Washing your hands after touching or treating animals who have mange can prevent passing on mange to humans.
Mites that cause scabies and mange are very contagious. Physical contact and sharing clothes or bed linens with someone who has mange can cause the infection. Mites can live for days on animals or textiles. You may even get scabies or another form of mange from sexual contact. Because it spreads quickly, those living with someone with mange should get treatment. You may be at increased risk for mange if you:
- live in crowded conditions
- practice poor hygiene
- have a compromised immune system
- work or live in nursing homes or hospitals
- frequently attend child care or school facilities
- are a young child
See a doctor right away if you suspect you have scabies or another form of mange. Your doctor will look at your skin and try to see signs of mite infestation, such as a burrow.
It’s possible that your doctor will locate a mite or take a sample of your skin from a suspected affected area. Your doctor may view it through a microscope for a complete diagnosis.
Your doctor may not find the mites on your skin even if you have mange. Or you may only have as few as 10 to 15 mites on your skin. In that case, they will make the diagnosis based on your physical symptoms.
A variety of methods can treat mange. Most need a doctor’s prescription. These medications will kill mites and their eggs. Products called “scabacides” treat scabies.
Aside from prescription treatments, you should clean the linens and clothing in your house. Do this by washing items with hot water and drying them in the dryer, dry cleaning them, or setting them in a plastic bag for a few days.
Your doctor may recommend treating your family or other members of your household simultaneously, even if they don’t show signs of mange.
You can also try soaking in cool water or applying a cool compress to sooth the affected areas. Calamine lotion applied to the skin may also help soothe itchy or irritated skin.
If you’re having an allergic reaction to mange, over-the-counter antihistamines may help reduce symptoms.
Scratching the affected areas can cause the skin to open. This leaves you susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if you develop a secondary infection.
Mange can clear up quickly with the right medical treatments. Mange generally only results in itching and a rash. If left untreated it could lead to secondary infections.
You may not see the signs of mange until weeks after the mites infest your skin. As soon as you see signs of mange, contact your doctor immediately.
If you live or have contact with an animal with mange, make sure to treat yourself and the animal for mites. The cycle of mange and scabies will not stop until you get the condition treated for yourself, members of your household, your pets, and others with whom you have regular physical contact.