Pubic Lice: Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Crabs, or pubic lice, are parasitic insects that live in the pubic hair and sometimes other hairy areas of the body, such as the armpits, beard, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Small, wingless insects attach to hair shafts and feed on human blood.

Pubic lice are typically spread through sexual contact but can also be transmitted through close personal contact, such as sharing towels or clothing. While being more prevalent in adults, they can also afflict kids.

Pubic lice are not a serious health problem, but they can be uncomfortable and lead to skin irritation and infections if left untreated. Proper diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent the spread of pubic lice and to alleviate symptoms.

What causes "Pubic Lice"?

Pubic lice are caused by the parasitic insect called Phthirus pubis. The lice attach themselves to the pubic hair and feed on human blood, causing itching and irritation. Here are some of the ways how it can spread −

  • Sexual contact, such as vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, is the most common way that pubic lice are transmitted.

  • Close personal contacts, such as sharing towels, clothing, or bedding, can also spread pubic lice.

  • Pubic lice can also be transmitted through contact with infested materials such as toilet seats, clothing, or bedding, but this is less common.

  • Pubic lice are not caused by poor hygiene or a lack of cleanliness.

Symptoms of Pubic Lice

Here are the symptoms of pubic lice in point form with more elaboration −

  • Intense itching − Severe itching in the pubic region is the main sign of pubic lice. This itching is caused by the lice feeding on the blood in the area. The itching may become more severe at night when the lice are more active.

  • Skin irritation − Pubic lice can cause redness, inflammation, and small red or blue spots on the skin where the lice have bitten.

  • Visible lice and eggs − Adult lice are visible to the naked eye and are about the size of a pinhead. The eggs, also known as nits, are smaller and usually found attached to the hair shafts close to the skin.

  • Sores and infection − Scratching the affected area due to intense itching can lead to sores, which can become infected with bacteria. This can cause additional pain and discomfort and may require medical treatment.

  • Hair loss − In severe cases, pubic lice infestations can cause hair loss in the affected area.

Diagnosis and Medical Tests

Here are some elaborated points on the diagnosis and tests for pubic lice −

  • Physical examination − A doctor can often diagnose pubic lice by physically examining the affected area. The doctor will inspect the skin for indications of inflammation or illness while looking for visible lice or nits.

  • Magnifying glass − Using a magnifying lens might assist find any lice or nits that are present..

  • Dermoscopy − A dermatoscopy is a handheld device used to examine the skin more closely. It can be useful for locating lice or nits that may be challenging to spot with the naked eye.

  • White vinegar test − A doctor may also perform a white vinegar test, in which a solution of vinegar and water is applied to the affected area. The adhesive holding the nits to the hair shafts can be broken down by the vinegar, making them easier to notice.

  • Microscopic examination − In some cases, a doctor may take a sample of skin or hair from the affected area and examine it under a microscope to confirm the presence of pubic lice or nits.

It's important to note that self-diagnosis is not recommended. It's crucial to get medical help if you believe you have pubic lice so that you may be properly diagnosed and treated.

Treatment and Medications

Here are some elaborated points on the treatment and medications for pubic lice −

  • Topical medications − The most common treatment for pubic lice is a prescription-strength lotion or cream that contains insecticides such as permethrin, pyrethrin, or malathion. These medications are applied directly to the affected area and left on for a specified period of time before being washed off. They work by killing adult lice and nits.

  • Oral medications − In some cases, oral medications such as ivermectin may be prescribed to treat pubic lice. These medications work by killing the lice and nits from the inside out.

  • Combing − A fine-toothed comb can be used to eradicate any lice or nits that may still be present after taking treatment. In order to make sure that all lice and nits have been eliminated, this should be done every day for at least two weeks following treatment.

  • Avoiding reinfestation − All clothing, bedding, and towels should be washed in hot water and dried on high heat to prevent reinfestation. To get rid of any lingering lice or nits, seal any objects that can't be cleaned in a plastic bag for at least two weeks. Also, refrain from having sex until your treatment is finished and all lice and nits have been eliminated.

  • Treating sexual partners − Sexual partners should also be treated for pubic lice, even if they do not have symptoms. This can help to prevent re-infestation.

  • Treating complications − If the pubic lice have caused skin irritation, sores, or infection, additional treatment may be necessary. This may include antibiotics to treat the infection or topical creams to reduce inflammation and relieve itching.

It's important to follow the instructions of your healthcare provider when using any medication to treat pubic lice. Overuse or misuse of these medications can lead to resistance and can make future infestations more difficult to treat. Additionally, if you have any concerns about your treatment, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.

Are There any Home Remedies?

While prescription medication is the most effective treatment for pubic lice, there are some home remedies that may provide some relief from symptoms −

  • Shaving or trimming the pubic hair − Shaving or trimming the pubic hair can help reduce the number of lice and nits in the area. However, it's important to note that this will not completely eliminate the infestation and should not be relied upon as the sole treatment.

  • Tea tree oil − A natural pesticide called tea tree oil has the potential to be helpful against pubic lice. Now, we need to add a few drops of tea tree oil diluted in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, to the region that needs treatment. Before washing it off, let it sit for at least 30 minutes. For at least two weeks, perform this therapy every day.

  • Petroleum jelly − Applying petroleum jelly to the affected area can help to suffocate the lice and nits. Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to the affected area and cover it with a plastic bag or shower cap. Leave it on for at least 12 hours before washing it off. Repeat this treatment every few days for at least two weeks.

  • Vinegar − The adhesive holding the nits to the hair shafts may be broken down by applying vinegar to the afflicted region, making the nits simpler to remove. Apply the solution to the afflicted region after combining equal amounts of vinegar and water. Before washing it off, let it sit for at least 30 minutes. For at least two weeks, perform this therapy every day.

It's crucial to remember that home cures shouldn't be used as the only method of treating pubic lice. It's crucial to get medical help if you believe you have pubic lice so that you may be properly diagnosed and treated. Additionally, some home remedies may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, so be sure to test a small skin area before applying any treatment to the entire affected area.


When human pubic hair is infested with parasitic insects known as pubic lice, transmitted by sexual intercourse or contact with infected clothing, beds, or towels, symptoms include itching, redness, and small insects or eggs on hair shafts. Diagnosis is made through physical examination. Treatment involves prescription-strength lotion or cream containing insecticides, combing the hair, washing clothing and bedding in hot water, and avoiding sexual contact. Home remedies may provide relief but should not be relied on as the sole treatment. Medical advice is important for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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