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Pubic Lice


What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice, or crabs, are tiny bugs that live and feed on blood in your genital area. They are tan, gray, or brown, and are about the size of a sesame seed. They lay eggs (nits) and attach the eggs to body hair.

How do pubic lice spread?

Pubic lice are spread through direct contact. For example, sharing clothing or bedding with someone who has lice. You can also get lice if you have sex with someone who has lice.

What are the signs and symptoms of pubic lice?

  • Severe genital itching is the most common symptom.
  • You may see red marks or swollen areas near the hair strands.
  • You may see and feel small bumps on your genitals.

How are pubic lice diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your signs and symptoms. He can usually see the lice when he examines your genital area.

How are pubic lice treated?

  • Lice medicine: These medicines are used to kill pubic lice. You can buy lice shampoo, lotion, or cream without a doctor's order. Use them as directed. Throw away all lice medicine that you do not use. Keep it away from your eyes.
  • Comb out lice: Use a fine-tooth comb to remove lice and eggs. Do this once a day until all lice and eggs are gone.
  • Wash clothes and bedding: Wash all clothes, towels, and sheets in hot, soapy water. Dry them on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Any items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned should be sealed in an airtight plastic bag for 2 weeks. Do not share towels and sheets with others.
  • Avoid contact to prevent the spread of lice: Do not have close body contact with anyone until all your lice are gone. Tell sex partners and anyone who has shared your clothes or bed about the lice.

What are the risks of pubic lice?

You can scratch your skin so much that it becomes raw or breaks open. This can lead to a skin infection. If you are infected with pubic lice for a long period of time, you can develop thick, dark skin patches.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your pubic lice do not go away, even after treatment.
  • The lice bites become filled with pus or crusty, or your skin has a bad smell.
  • Your skin burns, stings, swells, or is numb after you use lice medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are dizzy or have nausea and vomiting after you use lice medicine.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.