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Alternative Names Return to topLice - body
Definition Return to top
Body lice are tiny parasites (Pediculus humanus corporis) that spread through close contact with other people.
There are three types of lice:
This article focuses on body lice.
Causes Return to top
Lice feed on human blood and live in the seams and folds of clothing. They lay their eggs and deposit waste matter on the skin and clothing.
You can catch body lice if you come in direct contact with an infected person or infected clothing and bedding.
Body lice are bigger than other types of lice.
You are more likely to get body lice if you have poor hygiene or live in close (overcrowded) conditions.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin and clothing. Persons with body lice should also be checked for head and pubic lice.
Treatment Return to top
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.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
With effective treatment, the lice can be completely eliminated.
Possible Complications Return to top
Another (secondary) skin infection may occur from scratching. In rare cases, body lice may carry uncommon diseases such as relapsing or trench fever.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have lice in your clothing or persistent itchiness.
Prevention Return to top
Good personal hygiene and effective treatment of infected persons will prevent lice from spreading to others.Update Date: 10/28/2008 Updated by: Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.