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Pediculosis pubis and pediculosis ciliaris

Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Beth G Goldstein, MD
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Pediculosis pubis, pediculosis corporis, and pediculosis capitis are disorders caused by infestation by one of three varieties of lice that specifically infest humans (figure 1). Pediculosis pubis is usually sexually transmitted, and can extend beyond the pubic area to involve other areas of the body, including the eyelashes (pediculosis ciliaris). Phthirus pubis, also known as the crab louse, is the responsible organism.

The clinical findings, diagnosis, and treatment of pediculosis pubis and pediculosis ciliaris will be reviewed here. Pediculosis capitis and pediculosis corporis are discussed separately. (See "Pediculosis capitis" and "Pediculosis corporis".)


Epidemiology — Phthirus pubis, the crab louse, is usually transmitted during sexual contact, and increasing sexual freedom in many societies has contributed to its spread. Teenagers and young adults are most commonly affected.

Transmission via contact with fomites such as clothing, towels, or linen may also occur, but is thought to be less common [1,2]. Phthirus pubis gravitates toward warm environments and is not adapted to crawling on smooth surfaces, making infestation from a toilet seat unlikely [1].

A thorough sexual history and screening for other sexually transmitted diseases is warranted in patients with pediculosis pubis [3,4]. In a series of 121 individuals with pediculosis pubis, for example, 31 percent had another sexually transmitted disease [3]. (See "Screening for sexually transmitted infections".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 21, 2016.
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