What is Pubic lice (crabs)?

Pubic lice  also known as crabs, are small parasites that attach to the skin and hair near your genitals. Crabs aren’t dangerous, and they’re usually pretty easy to get rid of.

How do you get pubic lice (crabs)?

Crabs are usually spread through sex, because they like to live in pubic hair. Pubic lice move easily from one person’s hairs to another person’s hairs when their genitals touch or are very close to each other.  

Most people get crabs during sex, but sometimes they’re spread through other kinds of close, personal contact. You can get pubic lice where other types of coarse hair — like eyelashes, eyebrows, chest hair, armpits, beards, and moustaches— touch places on someone’s body where crabs are. Sometimes pubic lice are spread by using an infected person’s clothes, towels, or bed.

What are the symptoms of Pubic lice ?

Usually, the symptoms of pubic lice start about 5 days after you get them. Some people never have symptoms, or they think the symptoms are caused by something else (like a rash).

The most common symptom of pubic lice is intense itching in your pubic area. The itching and irritation is caused by your body’s reaction to the crabs’ bites.  

Pubic lice symptoms include:

  • Lots of itching in your genital area.

  • Super small bugs in your pubic hair. You can usually see pubic lice by looking closely, or you may need to use a magnifying glass. Pubic lice are tan or whitish-gray, and they look like tiny crabs. They get darker when they’re full of blood.

  • Crab eggs (called nits) on the bottom part of your pubic hairs. Nits are really small and can be hard to see. They’re oval and yellow, white, or pearly. Nits usually come in clumps.

  • Dark or bluish spots on the skin where pubic lice are living. These spots come from the crabs’ bites.

  • Feeling feverish, run-down, or irritable.

How do I know if I have pubic lice?

Usually, people figure out on their own that they have pubic lice. You can sometimes see the little crabs in your genital area and/or their eggs (nits) stuck to the base of your pubic hair. It may be hard to find the lice or eggs, because there might not be that many and they’re super small. Using a magnifying glass can help, or a nurse or doctor can look for them with a microscope.

What’s the treatment for pubic lice?

Pubic lice treatments are easy to use and come in gels, shampoos, liquids, and foam. Most are sold over-the-counter in drugstores, so you can buy them without getting a prescription from a doctor first.

You can also get stronger medicines for pubic lice with a prescription. If you have lice in your eyebrows or eyelashes, you need a special kind of treatment that you can only get from your doctor.