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    What is Lice?

    Lice are parasitic insects that can be found on the head and body of human beings, including the pubic area. Human lice survive by feeding on human blood. The three types of lice that live on humans are:

    • Pediculus humanus capitis (head louse)
    • Pediculus humanus corporis (body louse, clothes louse)
    • Pthirus pubis (crab louse, pubic louse)

    Socioeconomic status seems to be an indicator of the magnitude of lice infestation, but other factors like hygienic status and overcrowding also play an important role in the lice infestation.

    Head Lice

    Head lice are mainly spread by direct contact with the hair of an infected person. It is common in school children when they interact with each other during playing.

    Also, head lice are not known to transmit any disease. Following symptoms may be present during the infestation-

    • Pruritus
    • Tickling feeling or a sensation of something moving in hair
    • Irritability and sleeplessness

    The diagnosis of the head lice is made on the basis of presence or absence of live nymph or an adult louse on the scalp or hair of the person with the help of a fine-toothed louse comb. Nits are usually seen on hair behind the ears and back of the neck.

    Body Lice

    Body lice infestations (pediculosis) are spread most commonly by close person-to-person contact with poor hygienic conditions and overcrowding, being the most important factors.

    Body lice are known to spread the disease. Epidemics of typhus and louse-borne relapsing fever have been caused by body lice.

    The symptoms include intense itching (pruritus) and rash caused by an allergic reaction to louse bites. When body lice infestation is long lasting, heavily bitten areas of the skin can become thickened and darkened, particularly in the mid-section of the body. This condition is called vagabond's disease.

    The diagnosis is confirmed by the presence of eggs and crawling lice in the seams of clothing. They can also be seen crawling on skin.

    Pubic Lice

    Pubic lice infestations (phthiriasis) are usually spread through sexual contact. Pubic lice usually are found in the genital area on pubic hair; but they may occasionally be found on other coarse body hair, such as hair on the legs, armpits, mustache, beard, eyebrows, or eyelashes.

    Pubic lice do not transmit disease but secondary bacterial infection can occur from scratching of the skin.

    Itching (pruritus) in the pubic and groin area is the most common symptom of pubic lice infestation. The diagnosis is solely made by the visible lice eggs (nits) or lice crawling or attached to pubic hair. Persons infected with pubic lice must be evaluated for other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

    General management

    Using over the counter or prescription shampoo to kill lice is the treatment of choice. However, maintaining self- hygiene is the most important step to prevent the spread of lice at home or school. All the nits must be removed and the clothing, furniture and personal items must be decontaminated.

    Disclaimer: The information provided herein on request, is not to be taken as a replacement for medical advice or diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. DO NOT SELF MEDICATE. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN FOR PROPER DIAGNOSIS AND PRESCRIPTION.

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