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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/bugs living in skin of person


My wife swears she has bugs living in her skin or under the skin.  She picks her arms and they are all scaby. She picks the scabs and claims that they are bugs. She thinks they are eating holes in her clothes and that they are in the food she is eating. Me and the kids tell her that it is dead skin and dust, because we don't see any bugs. She is very obsessed about this. Are there such bugs that live in human bodies like this and in Alabama. Someone please help or direct me to someone who can. Thank you. Jeff

She should visit a dermatologist (Skin doctor).  

There are indeed bugs that live in skin.  Very common for dogs, where it is called mange and it makes them scratch and lose patches of hair.  The equivalent of people is called scabies.  Scabies is very, very rare in people in the US.  A skin doctor can scrape off loose bits of skin and look at it in a microscope, to can tell if it is scabies or not.   If it is scabies, the doctor can prescribe medication to get rid of the scabies.

There is another type of "bug" that lives in the skin called a follicle mite, and they commonly attack the roots of the eyelashes.  They hardly ever cause pain or itching, but sometimes can cause inflamed eyelids.  My mother has had this for years. It's very rare for them to attack other areas of the skin.  Again, a dermatologist can see them in a microscope.

If it's not scabies or follicle mites, it's most likely dry skin, psoriasis, or other skin condition.  This is by far the most common medical reason for skin itching.  Again, the doctor can recommend treatment.  

Sometimes these problems are psychological.  First, she needs to see a skin doctor to make sure there is no medical issue.  If the dermatologist determines that there is no physical reason for her skin problems, then he will refer her to a psychologist.  Psychological picking at skin is a common reaction to stress or nervousness.    

I get questions like this frequently, but usually from the person who has "bugs".  I highly recommend NOT sharing this email with your wife, but instead just accompany her to the dermatologist and both listen.  If she reads about real bugs like scabies and follicle mites, then she might insist that she has them, even if the doctor doesn't see them in a microscope.  Experienced dermatologists have seen it all before, and won't even need to look in a microscope to tell if it's a "bug" or not.  

You should go with her to the dermatologist.  Otherwise, she will hear what she wants to hear.  You need to hear it, too.   Good luck.  

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Sue Kayton


Silkworm expert. Have raised them as a hobby for 20 years. I do not identify unknown insects.

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