Pubic lice, often referred to as “crabs”, are tiny parasitic insects that are found in the coarse hair human beings; in most instances in pubic hair. They can also be found on occasion in other areas where coarse head grows on the body, such as on the legs, under the armpits, in a beard or moustache, in the eyebrows and sometimes the eyelashes. When found in the eye area, they often cause conjunctivitis. Pubic Lice are different from the lice that are normally found in the hair on the head.
What Pubic Lice (Crabs) look like
When fully grown Pubic Lice measured between 1.1 and 1.8 mm in length. Where one is found, further inspection usually reveals an infestation known as Pthiriasis. Pubic Lice are rather crab-like in appearance (hence the name) and can be either a yellow-grey or dusky red colour. They proliferate rapidly by laying tiny eggs (often referred to as “nits”), which they then attach to the base of individual strands of hair.
The signs and symptoms of Pubic Lice (Crabs)
A visual inspection will usually reveal both the presence of the Pubic Lice themselves, and any eggs or nits they have laid. A fine tooth comb, or proprietary “nit comb”, will usually pick them up when the infected area is combed.
If you work in London and you cannot spot them yourself, but you suspect you may have picked up an infestation, you can always pop into our walk-in STI Clinic in South London and get yourself checked out. Other symptoms you should look out for include:
- Itchiness and irritation of skin in the affected area
- Conjunctivitis if the infestation is in the eyebrows or eyelashes
- Blepharitis (inflammation of the eye)
- Black powder-like substance in your underwear
- Blue spots on skin (a result of lice bites)
- Minute spots of blood on skin or in underwear
Other problems associated with Pubic Lice
We’ve already broached the subject of conjunctivitis if the Pubic Lice infection happens to be in the haired areas around your eyes. The other potential complication is that you can also pick up a skin infection, although this is nothing to do with the Lice themselves; rather it is to do with the scratching of any irritated and inflamed areas. It can for example cause infections such as:
- Impetigo (a contagious bacterial skin condition).
- Furunculosis, which is a condition whereby boils appear on the skin, again as a result of scratching.
How you contract Pubic Lice (Crabs)
If there’s anything good about pubic lice, it’s the fact that they cannot jump. They can only crawl from hair to hair on an infected person. In order to survive they feed on human blood. So generally speaking, the only time that they leave their host is to transfer to another. That means the prime way of contracting Pubic Lice is from direct contact with another human being, and given the fact that they tend to infest the pubic area, that direct contact is normally either through sexual intercourse or other forms of intimate contact between genital areas. Other non-direct ways of contracting Pubic Lice include:
- The sharing of towels
- The sharing of clothes
- The sharing of bedding
Condoms are ineffective at preventing the spread of Pubic Lice
Given the fact that Pubic Lice live externally on the human body in coarse hair areas, wearing a condom during sexual intercourse will do nothing to prevent their spread from partner to partner.
Public Lice treatment and sexual health screening services – Broadgate Clinic London Wall
Although in the vast majority of cases there is little danger of contracting HIV any other STI through being bitten by Pubic Lice, it is prudent to get yourself checked out just in case – for peace of mind. If you work in London you can do everything in one fell swoop by dropping into the walk-in sexual health screening services we operate here at Broadgate Clinic London
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