Pubic lice, also known as 'crabs', are tiny parasitic insects which can be found in thick body hair such as pubic hair.
Lice can also be found on other parts of the body (e.g. eyebrows, eyelashes, underarms etc.)
Although it is usually passed on through sexual contact, you can also get pubic lice through close body contact.
Women with pubic lice may experience the following symptoms:
Irritated or inflamed skin in the affected area due to scratching
Itching (usually worse at night)
Black powder in your underwear
Visible lice in the pubic area (very small and grey-brown coloured) when examined closely
Small spots on the skin due to lice bites
If you think you may have pubic lice, you should see your doctor or attend a sexual health clinic.
The doctor will ask you about your sexual history and symptoms. They will also examine the genital area and other areas of the body with hair (excluding your head as pubic lice are not usually found there).
The doctor may also test you for other sexually transmitted infections.
If you are diagnosed with pubic lice or there is high suspicion that you may have pubic lice, your doctor will prescribe a special cream, lotion or shampoo to kill the lice. Your doctor or the pharmacist can advise you on how to use them.
Your doctor will also advise you to avoid sexual intercourse until you have been treated. You should also wash your clothes, beddings and towels at high temperatures (at least 50°C/122°F) to kill the lice.
You should also contact any recent sexual partners as they may have pubic lice. This includes any individual with whom you have had sexual intercourse within 3 months.