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Disease: Lice Lice
Category: Dermatological diseases

Disease Definition:

The tiny, wingless, parasitic insects that feed on blood are called lice. Through close personal contact and by sharing belongings, lice are easily spread, particularly among schoolchildren.


There are several types of lice, such as:

Head lice:

These lice develop on the scalp. At the nape of the neck and over the ears are the places where they're seen easily.

Pubic lice:

These lice appear on eyelashes, and on the skin and hair of the pubic area. They are called crabs.

Body lice:

These lice are found in the seams and folds of clothing.


A person could get lice even if he/she practices good personal hygiene. This condition could become a recurring problem if it's not treated properly.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the signs and symptoms of lice may include:


  • Small, red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders
  • Intense itching
  • Lice on the scalp, the body, clothing, or pubic or other body hair. The size of lice could be 2 to 4 millimeters (0.08 to 0.16 inches).
  • The presence of lice eggs (nits) on hair shafts. Nits look like tiny pussy willow buds. Even though nits could be mistaken for dandruff, however, they can't be easily brushed out of hair like dandruff.


People can get lice by coming into contact with either lice or their eggs. The eggs hatch in about one week, and lice can't walk on the ground or fly. Some of the ways in which lice could spread include:

Head-to-head or body-to-body contact:

When children or family members play or interact closely, this could occur.

Sharing items:

Shared items such as brushes, combs, pillows, blankets, towels, clothing, headphones, stuffed toys and hair decorations could spread lice.

Close proximity of stored belongings:

Lice could spread due to storing personal items such as pillows, blankets, combs and stuffed toys in close proximity at home, or due to storing infected clothing in closets, lockers or on side-by-side hooks at school.

Sexual contact:

All three forms of lice could spread by sexual contact.

Contact with contaminated furniture:

Head lice could live off the body for up to two days. Lice could also be spread by lying on a bed, sitting in furniture or using a toilet seat that has been lately used by someone infected with lice.






Usually, the first line of defense against head lice is over-the-counter lotions or shampoos. Someone may also be prescribed a stronger shampoo or lotion in case nonprescription products don't kill the lice.


In case a woman is pregnant or breast-feeding, she should consult her doctor before using this product. Malation has been re-approved as a prescription drug for treating head lice. However, it is flammable, so it should be keep away from heat sources such as cigarettes, hair dryers and electric curlers.


This is another prescription treatment for lice. Skin irritation, seizures and in some rare cases, death are some of its side effects. Someone’s risk of side effects will increase in case they use lindane in higher than recommended amounts, or for longer than recommended. The doctor may not prescribe lindane in case the person weighs less than 110 pounds, is a woman who's breast-feeding, or has used lindane in the past few months.


Applying too much of these medications could cause red, irritated skin, so they should be used only as directed. 



Treatment will involve self-care steps that a person can take at home despite the fact if they’re using over-the-counter or prescription shampoo to kill lice or not. This will include making sure that all clothing, bedding, personal items and furniture are decontaminated, and that all the nits are removed. Killing lice on the body is usually not difficult. Getting rid of all the nits and avoiding contact with other lice at home or school is the real challenge.



In case someone has body lice, they should take the same self-care measures mentioned above, such as treating clothing and other items. Other than this, treatment isn’t needed. 



The same over-the-counter and prescription treatments that are used for head lice could also treat pubic lice.


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Consultants Corner

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed

Yaser Habrawi , F.R.C.S.Ed Consultant Ophthalmologist

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