Pubic lice are insects that commonly infest the pubic region of both men and women. They are sometimes referred to as “crabs” because an adult pubic louse looks like a crab when viewed under a microscope. They are commonly spread by sexual contact. Occasionally, they can also infest other parts of the body, such as a beard, mustache or armpits. Lice that are present in the hair (head lice) are a different insect.
Though pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact, they can also be spread by infested bed linens, towels or clothing. Pubic lice that are present on children, such as in the eyebrows, may be a sign of sexual abuse.
Symptoms of Pubic Lice
If pubic lice are present, they're usually visible with very close observation. You may notice their tiny eggs, known as nits, implanted on pubic hairs, or you may actually see lice crawling around. The main symptom that pubic lice cause is extreme itching. Scratching too much can cause sores that leave you prone to infection.
Prevention and Treatment
The best way to avoid an infestation of pubic lice is to avoid sexual contact with an infested person. If your sexual partner gets pubic lice, sexual contact should be stopped till he or she has been treated and then fully reevaluated. This gives you the best chance of avoiding infection. It’s also very important to machine wash all bedding and clothing worn by the infected person in hot water before they're worn again.
A number of over-the-counter treatments are available for an active pubic lice infestation. The most common is a lice-killing lotion that's applied directly to the pubic region. If this treatment is unsuccessful, stronger medications are available with a prescription. These should be taken exactly as instructed because exposure to some of the toxins can be dangerous.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention