The journey of having scabies–A qualitative study

Bettina Trettin, Jette Amstrup Lassen, Flemming Andersen, Hanne Agerskov


Background and objective: Scabies is considered to be a common skin infection in the field of dermatology, but it is also, by the World Health Organization referred to as a neglected disease. It can cause complications such as secondary infections linked to the development of glomerulonephritis and chronic kidney disease. Furthermore, scabies is associated with stigma, shame and social isolation. To date no qualitative study, has explored this area in depth. The aim of this study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of patients diagnosed with scabies.

Methods: A phenomenological-hermeneutic approach was applied and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 participants with scabies. Data were analyzed according to Ricoeurs’ theory of interpretation: naïve reading, structural analysis and critical interpretation and discussion.

Results: The study revealed that patients were affected by uncontrollable and unbearable itching, which caused insomnia and distress, and lead to coping strategies to bring relief. Scabies was experienced as a never-ending journey, characterized by misdiagnosis, a long period of repeated treatment, and lack of information. Not knowing whether the disease had been cured resulted in feelings of insecurity and powerlessness. Scabies had an impact on everyday life caused by social withdrawal and due to feelings of shame, guilt and fear of rejection.

Conclusions: Having scabies is a journey that consists of uncertainty and is characterized by misdiagnosis, long period of treatment and lack of knowledge. Having scabies can be stigmatized, causing loneliness and social withdrawal. Patients with scabies are in need of care, support and information regarding physical, emotional and social well-being.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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