Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

If you have pubic lice (crabs), you may experience intense itching in your genital region. Pubic lice can spread to other areas with coarse body hair, including the:

  • Legs
  • Chest
  • Armpits
  • Beard or mustache
  • Eyelashes or eyebrows, more commonly in children

When to see a doctor

Seek medical advice about pubic lice treatment if:

  • Over-the-counter products don't kill the lice
  • You're pregnant
  • You have any infected skin abrasions from scratching

Causes

Pubic lice are most commonly transmitted during sexual activity. You may also acquire pubic lice from contaminated sheets, blankets, towels or clothes.

Risk factors

People who have other sexually transmitted infections are more likely to also have pubic lice.

Complications

Pubic lice infestations can usually be treated with a louse-killing lotion or gel. However, a pubic lice infestation sometimes leads to complications such as:

  • Discolored skin. Pale blue spots may develop where pubic lice have been feeding continually.
  • Secondary infections. If itchy lice bites cause you to scratch yourself raw, these wounds can become infected.
  • Eye irritations. Children who have pubic lice on their eyelashes may develop a type of pink eye (conjunctivitis).