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Alternative namesLice - body
DefinitionBody lice are tiny parasitic insects (Pediculus humanus corporis) that can be spread by close contact with other people.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are 3 types of lice: head lice , body lice, and pubic lice . Body lice may be 2 to 3 mm long, whereas head and public lice are much smaller.
They feed on human blood, and they lay their eggs and deposit their fecal matter on the skin (they may also lay their eggs in clothing). Infestation by body lice causes intense itching . When body lice are not feeding on blood, they live in the seams and folds of clothing. Body lice are transmitted by contact with infected clothing and bedding as well as by direct contact with an infected person.
Signs and testsExamination of the skin and clothing is usually sufficient to determine the presence of lice. The lice infestation may be confined to the body. However, people with body lice should be checked for lice on the scalp ( head lice ) and lice on the groin area ( pubic lice ).
Because body lice live primarily in clothing, destruction or careful washing of infected garments is most important. In addition, your doctor may recommend a prescription cream or wash.
Expectations (prognosis)With effective treatment, the lice can be completely eliminated.
Rarely, body lice may be carriers of uncommon disease such as relapsing fever or trench fever.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you detect lice in your clothing or have persistent itchy bites.
PreventionGood personal hygiene and effective treatment of infected persons will prevent lice from spreading to others.
Update Date: 4/15/2003Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT