Pubic lice, commonly known as crabs, are a common and uncomfortable genital area infection of parasitic insects. Infestations of the bugs can be found all around the world. Here is a look at the causes and symptoms of pubic lice.
Causes of pubic lice
The most common cause of pubic lice is through sexual contact, when one infected person spreads the pubic lice to another. Less commonly, pubic lice can be spread through contact with the linens or clothes used by an infected person.
Contrary to popular belief, pubic lice cannot be spread by coming in contact with toilet seats. Pubic lice cannot walk on or hold onto smooth surfaces, nor can they survive long in a cold environment.
If a minor has a pubic lice infection, it may be a sign of sexual abuse and/or activity, and further investigation may need to be done to determine the source.
Symptoms of pubic lice
The two most common symptoms of pubic lice include itching of the genital area and visible pubic lice and/or eggs. Pubic lice are usually only found in the genital are on the hair, but can also be found on other coarse hairs, such as the armpits or facial hair. Young children who have not yet developed pubic hair will usually have pubic lice on their eyebrows and/or eyelashes.
What pubic louse looks like
When looking for pubic lice, you may say any or all of the three different life stages – nit, nymph, and adult.
Nits are the term for pubic lice eggs. They may be difficult to see and are usually attached to the hair shaft itself. About the size of the tip of a sharpened pencil, they are oval in shape and yellowish white in color.
After a week, the nits hatch into nymphs, which are baby pubic lice. They appear the same as adult pubic lice, except for the fact that they are much smaller. The nymph feeds on blood and takes about a week to mature into an adult.
Adult pubic lice are not much bigger than a grain of rice and resemble a small crab when viewed under magnification, hence the term “crabs.” Grayish in color, the adult pubic lice also feed on blood. Adults do not live long, and they will die within 48 hours of falling off of the host. This is also why it is difficult to become infested with pubic lice without direct contact with an infected person.
Diagnosis of pubic lice
In order to determine whether or not a patient is infested with pubic lice, a close examination must be done of the pubic hair to look for any of the pubic lice life stages. Adults and nymphs can often be difficult to find since they move quickly and there are often not very many of them. However, finding nits is enough of a positive diagnosis to warrant treatment. If you are unsure whether or not pubic lice have been found, or if self treatment is unsuccessful, a visit to the doctor may be required for further diagnosis and treatment.