Crabs, Unfortunately without Butter

Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are small parasites that infest the hair surrounding the genitals and can also spread to other areas of the body with coarse hair. While dealing with a pubic lice infestation may be uncomfortable, it’s important to know the treatment options available and when to seek medical help. In this article, we will explore what pubic lice are, how they are transmitted, and the various methods of treating them.

What are Crabs (Pubic Lice)?

Pubic lice are tiny insects that infest the hair in the genital area. Although they are primarily found in the pubic region, they can also infest other parts of the body with coarse hair, such as the armpits, chest, and eyebrows.

Are Pubic Lice Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?

Pubic lice are often categorized as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because the most common way to get pubic lice is through sexual contact, similar to STDs.

How is Pubic Lice Spread?

Pubic lice are primarily transmitted through close physical contact. There are a few ways this can happen:

  1. Sexual activity: Engaging in sexual activities that involve skin-to-skin contact, such as vaginal, anal, and oral sex, is the most common way to get pubic lice.
  2. Sharing personal items: You can become infested with pubic lice by sharing items like clothing, underwear, towels, and bedding. It’s also possible for pubic lice to spread when sleeping in the same bed as an infested person.
  3. Close personal contact: Pubic lice can also spread through close contact, such as hugging, dancing, or engaging in skin-to-skin activities. It’s important to note that pubic lice cannot jump or fly, so direct contact is required for transmission.

To prevent an infestation, it is recommended to practice safe sexual behaviors, have open communication with your partners, and avoid close contact and sharing personal items with partners until the infestation has cleared up.

What Do Pubic Lice Look Like?

Pubic lice can be hard to spot, but they are typically tan or gray in color. While lice may be difficult to see with the naked eye, you may be able to spot them by using a magnifying glass or looking closely at your pubic hair.

Symptoms of Pubic Lice Infestations

Symptoms of a pubic lice infestation can vary from person to person. Some of the most common signs of crabs include:

  • Intense itching in the genital area
  • Blue-gray or blood spots on the skin around the genital area
  • Irritated skin that may be red or blotchy from the lice bites
  • Fever and other flu-like symptoms
  • Small white dots on the pubic hair that are difficult to remove
  • Presence of tiny bugs in your pubic hair

It may take up to five days for symptoms to appear after being infested. If you suspect that you have a pubic lice infestation, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible.

How is a Pubic Lice Infestation Diagnosed?

A pubic lice infestation should be diagnosed by a sexual health provider. They will typically use a magnifying glass to inspect the genital area, spot the lice, and physically remove them. Your doctor may also recommend testing for other STIs if necessary.

Pubic Lice Treatment Options

Pubic lice are one of the easiest STIs to get rid of. There are various treatment options available, including over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, prescription medications, and manual removal.

Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies

OTC pubic lice treatments are formulated to kill the parasites. These products contain insecticides like permethrin and pyrethrin, which inhibit the growth of the parasites and destroy any remaining lice eggs. When using these products, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully to avoid further irritation to the genital area.

Prescription medications

If OTC products are not effective, your healthcare provider may recommend stronger prescription medications to treat the infestation. These medications may include topical creams or lotions containing active ingredients that are intended to kill the lice and destroy their eggs.

Manual removal

Manual removal is an essential part of treating a pubic lice infestation. This can be done by using a fine-toothed comb to work through the pubic hair and remove the lice. It may be necessary to repeat this process a couple of times over a few weeks to ensure all the lice eggs are removed.

It’s worth noting that improving hygiene or using regular soap and water will not effectively treat a pubic lice infestation. These actions typically do not play a role in becoming infected, and regular soap does not contain ingredients strong enough to kill lice.

Can a Pubic Lice Infestation Go Away Without Treatment?

While it is possible for a pubic lice infestation to clear on its own, it is not recommended to rely on this outcome. Without proper treatment, pubic lice infestations can persist and worsen over time. This can cause continuous symptoms and significantly increase the risk of spreading the infestation to sexual partners. A prolonged infestation can also cause other complications, such as skin damage and an increased chance of becoming infected with other STDs.

When Should You See a Doctor about Pubic Lice?

It is recommended to see a doctor or sexual health provider as soon as you suspect that you have a pubic lice infestation. If you are unsure whether your symptoms are caused by pubic lice or something else, it is also important to make an appointment with your doctor. Additionally, you should see your healthcare provider if you:

  • Do not experience results using OTC products
  • Suspect that you have other STDs
  • Have complications or infections that cause intense skin irritation and open sores
  • Have a recurring pubic lice infestation

Your doctor will be able to provide a professional diagnosis and tailored treatment recommendations to help you overcome the infestation. They can also address any concerns or questions you may have about pubic lice and other STIs.

Learn More About Pubic Lice and Similar Conditions

If you suspect that you have crabs or have concerns about any of your symptoms, you can speak to a board-certified physician or nurse from the comfort of your home. Experts from can provide appropriate STI treatments and answer any questions you have. Schedule a telehealth appointment today.

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