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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Ivermectin for Scabies?

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  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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Ivermectin is a medication commonly used to treat scabies. It effectively alleviates the condition by killing the mites responsible for causing it. The medication is easy to take because it typically only takes a single pill to eradicate the infection. Although ivermectin is generally well tolerated by patients, it can cause side effects such as fever, dizziness, headache, and rash. This pharmaceutical agent is only available by prescription in the United States.

Perhaps the biggest pro of using ivermectin for scabies is that it is a very effective treatment for this condition. It works by paralyzing and killing the mites that are responsible for the symptoms associated with a scabies infection. Taking ivermectin eliminates the skin rash, itchiness, and pain found in patients suffering from this condition. It often cures the disease permanently, as long as there are no mites in the patient’s surrounding environment that could cause a second round of infection.

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Another advantage of using ivermectin for scabies is that often only one dose of medication is needed. The medication, which goes by the brand name Stromectol®, is given as one pill that should be taken on an empty stomach. If the single dose does not eradicate the infestation, then a repeat dose can be given in two to four weeks. Many patients prefer taking an ivermectin pill instead of using some of the other medications indicated for treating scabies because often the other pharmaceutical agents come as a cream that must be applied to all of the affected area of the skin.

One disadvantage of using ivermectin for scabies is that it can cause some significant side effects in patients who use the medication. Common side effects can include fever, itchiness of the skin, rash, headache, dizziness, muscle pain, and swelling of the feet. It can also cause some laboratory abnormalities, including high white blood cell counts and elevations in liver function tests. More severe side effects can include seizures, a rapid heart rate, and a severe skin reaction called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It is not recommended for use in pregnant women, infants, and in breastfeeding women.

In order to use ivermectin for scabies in the United States, a prescription is required. Some people might consider this to be a con of using ivermectin since they have to visit their doctors in order to gain access to this treatment. Given the side effects that this medication can cause, however, it is considered safer to restrict general access to it.

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Discuss this Article

serenesurface
Post 3

@ankara-- A single dose of ivermectin cleared up my scabies, but it took a few weeks for the symptoms to completely disappear. I had scratching and new spots appear for another week and a half. So the ivermectin probably worked for you but the symptoms haven't disappeared yet, give it time. I think ivermectin is a great drug.

literally45
Post 2

@ankara-- That's one major downside of ivermectin, a single dose isn't enough for most people. You are also right about resistance. The mites are increasingly becoming resistant to ivermectin because it's one of the most commonly used scabies drugs. If this is not your first scabies infection and if you've used ivermectin before, the chances of failure is high.

Most people take at least two doses of ivermectin about two weeks apart and also use topical creams simultaneously. If you have not been scheduled for a second dose or if there is more than two weeks until the next dose, ivermectin will probably fail. You need to speak to your doctor about this.

bluedolphin
Post 1

I was given a single pill of ivermectin last week for scabies, but it has not worked. Is it possible that the mites have built resistance to it?

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