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Crabs or pubic lice cause itching which leads to scratching and inflammation. They attach themselves to pubic hairs with their claws and suck blood from the host into their digestive system. They also lay eggs on the hair shaft.

How You Get Them

Crabs are transmitted by having sex with an infected partner. They are also spread by sharing clothes, sheets, or towels with an infected person.

How They Are Transmitted

Crab lice jump from one person to another, usually during sex.

What They Look Like - What The Symptoms Are

Crabs are one of three lice that infect the human body. They are very small insects that crawl around in the pubic areas. They can also be found in facial and body hair. Due to the severe itching they cause, they are often felt before they are seen. This itching can take up to 5 days before it is noticed. Sometimes the crabs and their nits (eggs) can be seen on the hair shafts.

How You Get Tested For Them

A healthcare provider will examine the area where the itching is occurring. A closer study of the pubic hairs can show the presence of nits (eggs).


Crabs are very treatable. A healthcare provider will recommend a lotion or powder, normally a pediculocide, to eliminate them. Most of these products are available as non-prescription items. Remember, anyone is contagious until all crabs and their nits are eliminated.

If Left Untreated

Left untreated, crabs will not go away. The itching will continue and as will the contagious condition to any partners. Excessive scratching may lead to a superinfection.


Questioning or examination of a partner.


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