Pubic lice


Public lice, also known as “crabs,” are tiny parasites that attach to the skin of pubic areas, eyebrows, and eyelashes. They are most commonly spread through sexual contact but can also be spread by sharing bedding, clothing, and towels. Pubic lice appear as grayish-white or yellowish-brown insects and can be seen with the naked eye. Common symptoms can include itching, irritation, inflammation, and the presence of eggs, or nits, on the hair shafts. Treatment for pubic lice includes the use of over-the-counter medicated shampoos and creams. Taking steps to avoid spreading pubic lice to others, such as not sharing bedding or clothing, is important.


The most common symptoms of pubic lice include itching and irritation in the genital area, visible nits (lice eggs) or crawling lice on the pubic hair, and dark spots of dried blood on the skin or clothing. Other symptoms may include a rash on the skin, genital pain, and having trouble sleeping.


The known cause of pubic lice is direct and prolonged contact with someone who is already infected with pubic lice. This could include sexual contact, close physical contact, sharing of clothing, linen and towels, and contact with furniture, such as beds and sofas.

Risk factors

The primary risk factor for pubic lice is participating in sexual activities, especially unprotected sex, that bring you into close contact with another person’s genitals and pubic hair. Other risk factors include close contact with someone infected with pubic lice, sharing bedding, clothing, and other personal items with someone who has pubic lice, and having multiple sexual partners. People who live in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions are also at increased risk, as lice can spread easily in such environments.


Pubic lice can be diagnosed by examining the pubic area for signs of the lice, such as black specs or white eggs. If lice or eggs are found, a doctor may need to do a skin scraping to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will also look for any signs of irritation or itching due to the infestation.


The most common subtype of pubic lice is Pthirus pubis. This type of louse can be found in the genital, anal and pubic regions of humans. It is typically bigger than other types of lice and has a notched front end and curved segmented body.

The second subtype of pubic lice is Phthirus capitis, which is the same type of louse that affects the scalp hair of humans. This type of louse is smaller than Pthirus pubis, with a more rounded shape and longer legs. It is typically found in the hair of the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

The third subtype of pubic lice is Phthirus axillaris which is found in the armpit region of humans. This type of louse is smaller than both Pthirus pubis and Phthirus capitis and has a wider body and short legs.

Finally, the fourth subtype of pubic lice is Pthirus gorillae, which is found on gorillas and other primates. This type of louse is typically bigger than the other types and has a more rounded body and longer legs.


The treatment for pubic lice (sometimes called ‘crabs’) is to use an over-the-counter (OTC) lotion or cream that kills the lice. The two medications commonly used are permethrin lotion (brand name Nix) or malathion lotion (brand name Ovide). Both are available without a prescription.

It is important to follow the directions on the package when using these medications. It is also important to treat any sexual partners. All bedding and clothing that may have come in contact with the infected person should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Vacuuming carpets and furniture may help, as well.

If the OTC medications do not work, it is important to see a doctor for prescription medications, such as Lindane lotion.


To reduce the risk of getting pubic lice, the following measures can be taken:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who may have pubic lice, such as those who have had recent intimate contact with an infected person.
  2. Practice safer sex, using a condom or other barrier protection during sexual activity.
  3. Avoid sharing clothing, bedding, and towels.
  4. Groom your pubic area regularly to reduce the number of lice and eggs.
  5. Use an antilice medication available over the counter or by prescription.
  6. Wash bedding and clothing in hot water and dry on the highest heat setting.
  7. Vacuum furniture and carpets that may be contaminated.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of pubic lice. Men tend to have more active infestations than women and the lice are more likely to be found in the pubic hair area. In contrast, women tend to have smaller infestations that are more widespread in the body, with lice found in armpits, eyelashes, and chest hair.

In addition, women may be more likely than men to experience severe itching due to the lice, as the pubic area is more sensitive. This can lead to complications such as skin infections or bacterial infections from scratching. Commonly used treatments such as lotions, creams, and shampoos are generally more effective on women, due to their higher rate of effectiveness in treating lice in general. Men may benefit more from treatments such as electric current therapy and chemical agents, which are more likely to eliminate lice more quickly.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of pubic lice, as good nutrition and healthy habits can boost the body’s natural defense mechanisms and allow it to fight off infection more effectively. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids will help the body maintain healthy skin and scalp and make it better able to repel lice infestations. Additionally, consuming plenty of proteins and whole grains can help reduce the itchiness associated with pubic lice, allowing the body to heal more quickly. Drinking plenty of water and keeping the skin hydrated can also help keep pubic lice from spreading, as well as reduce their discomfort. Lastly, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs can be beneficial in eliminating the risk of reinfestation.

Physical Activity

Physical activity does not have a direct effect on pubic lice. Pubic lice, also known as crab lice, are small parasitic insects found in the pubic hair area of humans. They are spread through skin-to-skin contact and are not affected by physical activity. The only way to prevent and treat pubic lice is to avoid contact with an infested person, practice safe sex and use medicated shampoos and creams.

Further Reading


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