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What Will Happen If Scabies Is Left Untreated?

The contagious infestation of the skin caused by human itch, or Sarcoptes scabiei, is called scabies. These parasites burrow deep into the epidermis and lay their eggs there. These mites and their eggs cause an inflammatory reaction in the skin which manifests as an extremely itchy rash. Scabies is a highly infectious disease that spreads almost exclusively through skin contact with a scabies patient. Scabies is treated with prescription anti-parasitic medication. Wondering what will happen if scabies is left untreated?

If left untreated, a scabies infestation can progress and spread to other people. Bacterial infection and other complications can also develop if scabies is left untreated. To know all about the importance of scabies treatment, go through the following piece of read.

What Will Happen If Scabies Is Left Untreated?

What Will Happen If Scabies Is Left Untreated?

Progression of Mite Infestation in Scabies

Untreated scabies leads to progression of the mite infestation. Scabies is characterised by extreme itching and appearance of pimple-like rash caused by an immune reaction to human itch mite proteins. The onset of scabies rash occurs after 2 to 6 weeks of the initial infestation. If scabies is left untreated, the itch mites continue to reproduce and the area of infestation becomes larger and reaches the unaffected parts of the skin. Scabies commonly affects the skin between the fingers, and the skin folds of the wrists, elbows, knees, armpits, waist, breasts, buttocks, and groin. Excessive scratching can result in open wounds and cause scarring. Disabled people, seniors and ones with a weakened immune system can at times experience lesser severe itching, but more skin crusting. This condition is known as crusted scabies.

Untreated Scabies Leads to Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infection develops if scabies is left untreated. The extreme itchiness typically experienced by scabies patient often worsens at night. Repeated scratching can result in breaks in the skin and a secondary bacterial skin infection, mostly caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria. The area of scabies rash with a superimposed bacterial infection generally demonstrates increased warmth, redness, and pain. Pus-oozing open sores may be present too. If the bacterial infection spreads deep in the skin layers or in the tissues beneath the skin, a fever can also occur. Scabies patient with a superimposed bacterial infection usually need to be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria, along with anti-parasitic medication to eliminate the human itch mites.

Systemic Illness occurs as a Result of Untreated Scabies

There is a high risk of developing systemic illness if scabies is left untreated. Individuals with an untreated streptococcal infection, superimposed on untreated scabies, can experience kidney damage. This condition, called post-infectious glomerulonephritis (PIGN), manifests as mildly impaired kidney function to complete kidney failure. PIGN is caused due to inflammation of the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. Some common symptoms of severe PIGN are decreased urination, bloody or brown urine, high blood pressure, fever, and swelling of the feet, hands, face and lower legs. A localized bacterial skin infection superimposed on scabies can also spread to the bloodstream. This dangerous condition is called septicaemia. Septicaemia can be difficult to treat in its advanced stage. Life-threatening shocks can occur with multiple organ system failure, and result in fatality. Symptoms of this condition are rapid breathing and heart rate, fever, drop in blood pressure, profuse sweating, decreased alertness, and confusion. So it is very important that you treat scabies on time.

Transmission of Infection to Others

If scabies is left untreated then there is a high risk of transmission of this infection to others. Children and adults with untreated scabies can spread the condition to people who have skin contact with them, like their family members and sexual partners. Compared to people with ordinary scabies who only have 10 to 15 mites on their body, ones with crusted scabies are more contagious since their skin can be infested with up to 2 million live mites. Scabies mostly occurs due to skin-to-skin contact with a person infested with itch mites. However, outside the human body, adult female itch mites can survive for up to 2 to 3 days in hot, humid conditions. So, furniture, sheets, towels and clothes contaminated with living human itch mites can lead to spread of scabies in tropical environments.


People suspected of having scabies should seek medical attention, immediately. Prescription medication is required to eradicate the scabies infestation. OTC meds or home remedies have not yet proven effective in getting rid of the scabies infection. Patients showing symptoms of a secondary bacterial infection in untreated scabies, such as kidney failure or sepsis, require emergency medical care.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Scabies: https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/index.html
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association – Scabies: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scabies-overview

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 5, 2023

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