Pubic Lice: Symptoms, Signs and Treatment

What are Pubic Lice?

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are small 6-legged lice transmitted by physical contact and nest and lay egg sacs (nits) in the pubic and genital regions of the body.

Pubic Lice Overview

Pubic lice are also known as crabs due to their similar 6-legged appearance under a microscope.

The medical term for crabs is phthirus pubis, and they nest in the pubic region and can cause severe itching and inflammatory skin reactions.

Pubic Lice

Pubic Lice Feed Off Human Blood

Pubic Lice

The reason why pubic lice infestations are so itchy and uncomfortable is the fact that they require human blood for their survival.

The lice burrow down the shaft of pubic hair follicles to access blood, and it is their excretions that are deposited in the skin that cause the itching and skin reactions.

Pubic Lice

Visual Signs of Pubic Lice

While they are less than 2 millimeters long, you can still see public lice and their egg sacs with the naked eye or a magnifying glass.

Common visual markers of their presence include not only seeing them, but also rash like areas in the public region, and/or areas of skin irritation.

If you look closely you will likely see the egg sacs (commonly known as nits) attached to the base of the pubic hair follicle. Pubic lice are also known to thrive in the eyelashes.

Pubic Lice

Preventing Transmission of Pubic Lice

Pubic Lice

If you suspect you have pubic lice there are several precautionary steps you should take to prevent further transmission:

  • Avoid sexual contact
  • Avoid having multiple partners
  • Do not share bedding
  • Do not share clothing
  • Wash all clothing and bedding in hot water
  • Any other items that cannot be washed should be sealed in an airtight plastic bag for 2 weeks to kill any nits or lice.
Pubic Lice

Treatment Options for Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are treated with prescription shampoos such as Kwell or Elimite.

The actual nit sacs attached to the base of the pubic hair follicles may need to be combed out.

Pubic Lice