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What Are Crabs? What Is The Treatment For This Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Crabs or genital lice are often clumped within the general heading of sexually transmitted diseases. This is because crabs are mainly spread through close contact, a key feature of sexual intercourse.

Crabs or genital lice are literal lice that mostly live in the pubic hair region of both men and women. These lice are not dangerous as they don't cause any disease processes or carry any infections. Although they are predominantly found in the pubic hair region, they can also be found in other places, such as chest hair, armpit hair, and even beards. Crabs are seldom found on the scalp, though. While carbs are not an STD, this condition is commonly found in people with other sexually transmitted infections. 

While having crabs is not as dangerous as some might think, it can still cause a fair bit of discomfort. The good news, however, is that crabs are very easy to cure with a few medications and appropriate care.


Crabs are the name of the condition where a person has pubic lice infestation. Pubic lice can look different depending on their stage of growth. Here are three stages of growth in a normal pubic lice lifecycle:

  • Nits – nits are lice eggs. These are hard to see, even under a microscope. They usually have a white or yellowish appearance.
  • Nymph – the young version of pubic lice are called nymphs. Nymphs last about 2-3 weeks until they fully mature and become adults.
  • Adult Lice – 2-3 weeks after hatching from their eggs, pubic lice assume their adult identity. A fully mature louse (singular of lice) has six legs and resembles a crab's pincher claw. Adult lice have a tan or grayish-white color.


Pubic lice infestation is not a sexually transmitted infection. It is merely an overgrowth of lice that causes the host some discomfort. However, pubic lice are frequently transmitted to other people through sexual activity.

The reason pubic lice are transmitted through sex is that sex involves a lot of close contact, which is key for lice transmission. There are other known ways through which these lice are transferred as well. These include sharing bedsheets, linen, towels, clothes, and other materials. 

You can acquire lice in all the ways mentioned above, but knowing how pubic lice can't be transferred is also important. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get pubic lice from a public toilet. This is because these lice cannot survive much longer without a host. Similarly, casual contact, such as hugs and handshakes, does not spread pubic lice.

Symptoms of pubic lice infestation appear almost 5 days after infestation and include:

  • Pruritis, which is severe itching
  • Blood spotting in your undergarments
  • Small whitish spots in the pubic region
  • Low fever and fatigue
  • Bluish discoloration on your inner thighs and buttocks

You should see your healthcare provider soon if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. 

While having pubic lice is not dangerous as these lice do not cause any disease, they can predispose you to more serious infections.

For example, people with pubic lice often scratch their pubic regions vigorously throughout the day. This severe itching causes the epidermal lining of the skin to break and increases the chances of pathogen infestation. Moreover, people with pubic lice are often predisposed to acquiring serious sexually transmitted infections.


Pubic lice are completely curable with over-the-counter creams and shampoos. These products are medicated and safe to use. Here are a few simple steps to get rid of pubic lice:

  • First, examine if you have pubic lice. You can do this by looking for any signs and symptoms of pubic lice infestation mentioned above.
  • Apply the medicated shampoo or cream in the infested area and leave it on for the time directed by the product packaging.
  • The next step is to remove any visible nits through a thin-haired comb. 
  • It would help if you also washed all your linens, bed sheets, blankets, and clothes in hot water. If you can't wash any of these for whatever reason, place them in a sealed bag for 2 weeks. This will kill off any remaining lice.
  • While you treat lice, it is generally a good idea to pause your sex life to protect your partner as well. 
  • If this treatment does not fully cure lice infestation, you can also repeat the process after 10 days.

You can also consult a dermatologist for your lice problem. Your dermatologist can provide a better insight into y problem and offer personalized treatment. People who may be allergic to popular anti-lice products may also benefit from a dermatology consultation.

It is important to know that insecticides will not cure lice infestation. Therefore, avoid spraying insecticide on your clothes, bedding, and towels.  


Pubic lice diagnosis is entirely visual. In addition to signs and symptoms, a thorough examination of the infested region reveals tiny pinhead-sized crab-like structures. You might be able to see the lice or nymphs on your own.

However, if you can't spot any lice even after self-examination, you should see a doctor. Your doctor will examine the infested area with a magnifying glass which should reveal eggs, nymphs, or lice.

In addition to starting treatment, your doctor will recommend STD testing, as people with pubic lice often have other sexually transmitted infections.


The only way to remain 100% safe from ever-acquiring pubic lice is to refrain from close physical contact with other people. However, there are other steps that you can take to ensure a reasonable level of care when it comes to lice infestations. 

  • Avoid having sexual intercourse with people who have multiple sexual partners.
  • Limit the number of your sexual partners 
  • Frequently examine yourself if you experience excessive itching or discomfort in any area of your body.
  • If your find any lice, start treatment immediately
  • Ensure that your sex partners also receive treatment for pubic lice
  • Frequently wash your clothes, towels, and linens


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