Body lice : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Lice – body

Definition

Body lice are tiny parasites (Pediculus humanus corporis) that spread through close contact with other people.

There are three types of lice:

  • Body lice
  • Head lice
  • Pubic lice

This article focuses on body lice.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

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 someone who has lice, or with infected clothing, towels, or 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. Infestation is unlikely to last on anyone who bathes regularly, and who has at least weekly access to freshly laundered clothing and bedding.

If the lice fall off of a person, they die within about 5 – 7 days at room temperature.

Pictures & Images

Body louse

This is a magnified view of a body louse. Lice produce itching and a characteristic skin rash, which looks like a scrape. Lice may also carry organisms that cause relapsing fever, typhus, and trench fever. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Lice, body with stool (Pediculus humanus)

Lice, body with stool (Pediculus humanus)

These are Pediculus humanus, or body lice. Other types of lice infest the scalp, head (Pediculus humanus capitis), or the pubic area (Phthirus pubis). Some body lice may carry diseases such as epidemic typhus, relapsing fever, or trench fever. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Body louse, female and larvae

Body louse, female and larvae

This is a magnified view of a female body louse with larvae. Lice cause itching and a characteristic excoriated skin rash (looks like a scrape). They may also transmit diseases, including relapsing fever, typhus, and trench fever. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Head louse and pubic louse

Head louse and pubic louse

This picture compares the relative size and shape of the head louse and the pubic louse.


Review Date : 12/11/2009
Reviewed By : Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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