What are pubic lice (crabs)?
They are commonly known as crab lice as their legs grip hairs like pincers. They are mainly found on the pubic hair, body hair and, rarely, eyebrows and eyelashes. They are not found on the hair of the head.
What are the symptoms?
There may be no symptoms or you may feel itchy in the hairy areas. There may be spots of blood on your underwear.
How are pubic lice passed on?
They are passed from person to person by close body contact (or sharing a bed – they can survive off the body for 24 to 48 hours).
How are they diagnosed?
Based on finding lice and/or their eggs. They can be identified under a microscope.
Where can I be treated?
You can treat yourself with a lotion from the chemist. You do not have to be seen by a doctor. You may want to go to your genitourinary medicine clinic to check for any sexually transmitted infections, which may be present without symptoms. Current sexual partners should also be treated.
Bed linen and recently used clothing should be put through a hot wash.
Will the pubic lice come back?
Treatment is successful for most people. You may experience itching afterwards but this does not necessarily mean that the lice have come back. Do not use the lotion more often than recommended on the instructions. If current sexual partners are not treated it is likely the pubic lice will come back during close body contact.
How shall I tell my partner?
Pubic lice are very common and treatment is successful for most people. They are passed on by close body contact, infected linen and possibly towels. By showing this website to your partner it may help get rid of some myths about pubic lice and put it in perspective.
If you want further information please do not hesitiate to contact your local GU Medicine and Sexual Health Clinic and speak to a member of staff.