What are pubic lice?
Pubic lice are tiny insects which live in coarse body hair. This means they cannot only be found in pubic hair but also in underarm hair, hairy legs, chests and eyelashes. They have also been known to exist in beards and eyebrows. The lice are skin coloured and about 2mm long, they have large claws which make them look like crabs. They glue their eggs to the hair close to the skin, feeding on blood (but they cannot pass on H.I.V.).
How are pubic lice passed on?
Pubic lice are passed on by close body contact, not necessarily sex. They can also be passed on through sharing the same bed linen, clothes or towels as an infected person, though this is rare. The lice don’t fly or jump, they travel by crawling from hair to hair. If a partner has suddenly become infected with pubic lice it may not necessarily be through having sex with another person, but from one of the reasons mentioned above.
How can I prevent catching pubic lice?
If you are sexually active, there is no sure way of preventing infection with pubic lice, but you can prevent them spreading by ensuring you wash everything used by a person with pubic lice (e.g. bed linen, clothes) in a hot wash. The only other way to protect yourself is to know your partner’s sexual history.
What are the signs and symptoms of pubic lice?
You may have pubic lice for 2-3 weeks before you notice any symptoms. The symptoms when they appear are the same for men and women and include:
- Itching in the infected areas, especially at night, sometimes causing a rash.
- Black powder in underwear, caused by droppings ( faeces) from the lice.
- Brown eggs (nits) on pubic or other hair.
- Minute specks of blood may be seen (from them feeding).
- You may be able to see the lice on the skin or hair. When fully grown they are approximately the size of a pin-head.
How are pubic lice diagnosed?
Your doctor will begin by giving you a physical examination. If pubic lice are present the doctor will remove them from the skin, they will then be analysed under a microscope.
How are pubic lice treated?
The most effective treatment for pubic lice is using a special shampoo, lotion or cream available without prescription from pharmacies or for free at your local G.U.M. clinic.
Always ensure your partner is checked and treated as well to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Avoid all sexual contact during treatment. It is advisable to have a check up after treatment to ensure the pubic lice have gone and to make sure you have no other S.T.D.’s.
How can pubic lice affect me in the future?
There is no danger in lice health wise, but if left untreated they can spread to other parts of the body, such as armpits or legs and then they are harder to treat.