What are Norwegian / Crusted Scabies?

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Norwegian or crusted scabies is a parasitic, infectious disease which obtained its name when it was first referenced in mid-19th century in Norway. The condition can, however, be found anywhere in the world.

It is a much more extreme version of scabies. There are usually around 5 to 15 mites on the body in the case of common scabies but in this complication of the disease there can be thousands and sometimes millions of mites. The female mites burrow into the skin of the patient and can lay up to three eggs each day for her lifetime. It can take up to 14 days for a fully grown mite to develop.

Scabies mite

Sarcoptes scabies – the mite that causes Norwegian scabies.

The disease creates blisters and sores in one or more places on the body due to mites. The skin becomes crusted with grayish colored flakes which can disintegrate when touched. The skin beneath the crusts is red raw as well. However, in comparison to the more common form of scabies, it does not tend to cause itching.

Sometimes the disease can be mistaken for other skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis which can look similar. The sooner the disease is identified and treated, the faster the risk of spreading the highly infectious condition is minimized. Further tests such as a skin biopsy can help to provide a conclusive diagnosis. The skin can also be examined carefully to see if there is any evidence of a burrowing mite.

The condition can affect any part of the body. For example, patients can develop it on their nails, scalp, and neck. Areas that it can particularly cover include finger webs, elbows, wrists, scrotum, and breasts. Sometimes the condition can completely cover the patient’s body.

Who gets Norwegian scabies?

People whose immune system is very compromised can develop Norwegian scabies. Patients who are already suffering from scabies have also been known to develop this more severe version. Those who are most prone to the condition include:

  • Elderly people
  • Patients on steroid medicines
  • People with brain disorders
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children
  • People with Down’s syndrome
  • People with disabilities
  • Transplant recipients
  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Patients who have a condition that affects their immune system, e.g. HIV or AIDS

The condition is also very contagious, so people who develop it may have caught it from someone else or they can pass it on to other people themselves. To minimize the chances of this happening, the patient should not share clothes, bedding or other personal items with other people. Areas where the patient has been should also be carefully vacuumed to minimize traces of the disease. In general, it is essential for the patient to receive treatment as soon as possible for the condition to reduce the risk of spreading it.


The disease can lead to other, more life-threatening situations. The patient with the disease already has a compromised immune system. The tendency of the skin to flake off easily puts them at risk of also catching a bacterial disease such as staphylococcal, streptococcal, cellulitis or impetigo.


Patients can undergo treatment with special chemical insecticides called scabicides. These can take the form of creams which are applied to the body. The patient may also need to take some antibiotics. As crusted scabies can be difficult to heal, the process may need to be repeated to shake the condition off.

Patients can be treated with keratolytic agents to help remove the affected skin. The medication permethrin has been used over a period of six weeks to treat people with Norwegian scabies. Ivermectin is another possible treatment. There has, however, been a reported resistance to latter at times.


  1. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scabies/Pages/Complications.aspx
  2. http://www.medicinenet.com/what_is_norwegian_scabies-page2/views.htm
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/gen_info/faqs.html#crusted
  4. http://www.scabiesnurse.com/norwegian-scabies.shtml
  5. http://www.dermnetnz.org/arthropods/scabies.html
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1153733/

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Deborah Fields

Written by

Deborah Fields

Deborah holds a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry from the University of Birmingham and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism qualification from Cardiff University. She enjoys writing about the latest innovations. Previously she has worked as an editor of scientific patent information, an education journalist and in communications for innovative healthcare, pharmaceutical and technology organisations. She also loves books and has run a book group for several years. Her enjoyment of fiction extends to writing her own stories for pleasure.


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  1. cindy loo cindy loo United States says:

    I’m not sure if I have scabies but I use a magnifier on my phone and I have seen things come out of my skin and mite like critters. There’s not much itching just a tickle now and then. But I’ve noticed my sons socks will have black fuzz and lint balls that never were there before. And now I have it too. I can pull them off and look through magnifier and I can tell something is there. I woke up yesterday and I had fibers stuck all over my clothing I can pull them off with tweezers and observe them in magnifier. There’s also tiny white hairs that if I pull one off there’s others that begin to reveal themselves and I can go for hours pulling the once I couldn’t see them now I can tony translucent hairs off my clothing. Again I can tell there is some life there. So this started in my hair I brush my hair and black fuzz falls into the sink and with magnifier I see something start to unravel from around my strand of hair the. Black little things start slowly crawling away and at the end there are whitish things left.  I can vacuum my car carpet and it’s all clean then I look again things have popped up as if you play hide and seek. There are seed like things growing out of my car carpet. I don’t know what else this could be except for scabies bc it’s living under my skin.  It has something it does to the belly’s hairs in my face. If I pluck ive hair like with the ones on clothing there are more that start to pop up. They seem to be blocking my pores bc unless the hairs are “awake” I can’t express a pimple or blackhead. I have numerous pictures up close magnifier pictures that are pretty interesting. If this is scabies then why is there no information in this stuff? Also before I forget they DO NOT DIE!! It seems I can wash in boiling hot water they don’t die!! I can leave clothing untouched in a drawer for a month go bavk and it’s full of new lint balls!! Also I’ve put new clothing in a drawer left it there for 3-4 months without opening the drawer then when I do this new clothing never worn never touched has the same stuff on it! Lint balls tiny white translucent hairs!!
    What is this stuff!

  2. cindy loo cindy loo United States says:

    I’ve been reading on this. I recommend others do the same if you have pets. Bc of the milder symptoms and it’s longer life of 10 days to 3 weeks off host. I eliminate scabies. Any thoughts?

  3. cindy loo cindy loo United States says:

    I replied to Chris Weldons post. I encourage y’all to take a look. It’s very interesting. Sounds like they’re getting close to finding a cause for morgellons. That will lead to a cure hopefully!

  4. Elexis Bridges Elexis Bridges United States says:

    Please help I feel like I’m losing my mind. Now they are attacking my kid’s

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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