Pubic Lice are also known as crabs. Pubic Lice are very small bugs that attach themselves to pubic hair and bite the surrounding skin. Scabies are mites (bugs) that dig under the skin where they lay their eggs, often in the genital area. Both cause extreme itching in men and women.

How is it spread?

Pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact. Rarely, they can be spread through contact with an infested person’s bed linens, towels, or clothes.

Scabies are transferred by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested with scabies. Contact must be prolonged (a quick handshake or hug will usually not spread infestation). Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding.

What are the symptoms?

For pubic lice:

  • Itching in the genital area
  • Visible nits (lice eggs) or crawling lice (see picture)

For scabies:

  • Pimple-like irritations, burrows or rash of the skin, especially the webbing between the fingers; the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee; penis, breast, or shoulder blades (see picture)
  • Intense itching, especially at night and over most of the body
  • Sores on the body caused by scratching, these sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria

Scabies Infestation


Pubic Lice

Visible Pubic Lice Nits


How is it treated?

Several lotions are available to treat either pubic lice or scabies.  Always follow the directions provided by your physician or the directions on the package insert.  All clothes, bedding, and towels used by the infested person 2 days before treatment should be washed in hot water, and dried in a hot dryer.

How can infection be prevented?

An infestation can be avoided by not having sex or by having sex only with one uninfested partner. Pubic lice can also be contracted from bedding and towels used by an infested person, so it’s important to avoid contact with any item – including clothing – that a person who’s infested has used.

If you think that you or someone you know may have pubic lice or scabies, click here for testing sites. If you’re sexually active, sign-up for free STD testing reminders via email, text or both at If We All Test, we can help eliminate syphilis and other STDs in our community.