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  • Crab lice or pubic lice are parasites found on the human genitalia

  • The lice can also spread to other body parts like underarms, legs, chest, stomach, back, beard, moustaches, eyelashes and eyebrows

  • They are yellow-grey in color and their eggs are brown in color

  • Pubic lice generally spreads through close body contact which may or may not be sexual in nature. It can spread through hugging, kissing, etc.

  • The lice doesn't spread other STIs 

  • Using condom or other barrier contraception methods does not provide safety against spread of pubic lice

Crab lice/pubic lice

Spread of Pubic Lice

Pubic lice spreads through the following routes:

  • Sexual contact (unprotected intercourse) with infected individual 

  • Personal contact with articles like bed linens, clothing, towels used by infected person

  • Lice can also spread by hugging, kissing and close body contacts

Pubic lice does not spread via toilet seats because the parasite cannot survive on smooth surfaces like the toilet seat.

Pubic lice/crab lice symptoms, treatment and prevention

Symptoms of Pubic Lice

  • Lice found on pubic/body hair 

  • Visible lice eggs (called “nits”) on infected regions

  • Itching in genital area

  • Swelling and irritation due to itching 

  • Small blood spots on skin caused due to lice bite

Animals do not get or spread pubic lice. Moreover, head lice is different from pubic lice and the distinction must be clear. 

Complications of Pubic Lice

Pubic Lice may not cause serious complications but it can still impact the health in following ways:

  • It can lead to eye problems if the infection gets in the eye lashes

  • Skin infections like Impetigo and Furunculosis (boils on skin)

  • Eye complications like Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis (eye inflammation) 

  • Fever

Treatment of Pubic Lice

Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. Over the counter disinfectants (without any prescription), can be obtained from pharmacies:

  • Lice killing lotion with 1% permethrin 

  • Lice killing mousse with pyrethrin and piperonyl but-oxide

  • Topical and oral ivermectin (prescription required)

  • Lindane shampoo can be used when alternatives are not present. But it should be avoided as it can have adverse effect on the nervous system 

The treatment usually needs to be repeated after 7 days to get rid of any lice that might have hatched during this time.

Eyelash infestation is rare. If your eyelashes are infested, seek advice from your doctor.

Wash clothes, towels and bedding in a washing machine. This should be in hot water (over 50 degree celsius) to ensure that the lice is dead and reinfection does not occur.

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