What are pubic lice?

Pubic lice (Pediculosis pubis), also called “crabs,” are tiny insects that live in the pubic hair (hair below the navel) and other hairy areas of the body, except the scalp. Only rarely can pubic lice be found on the scalp.

How do you get pubic lice?

Crabs are spread by having close physical contact with someone who has them. They are most often spread by sexual contact, but they can also be caught by having contact with infested clothing, bed linens, and toilet seats. You can get crabs more than once. If you are diagnosed with pubic lice, it is important to get checked for other sexually transmitted infections at the same time.

What are the symptoms of pubic lice?

Symptoms include:

  • Severe itching in hairy areas, especially pubic hair
  • Tiny red specks of blood in the underwear
  • Small white dots on the pubic hair that are hard to remove
  • Pale bluish spots on the thighs, buttocks, or lower abdomen

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/11/2014.


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pubic lice Accessed 12/11/2014.
  • Bachmann L. Chapter 30. Commonly Encountered Genital Dermatoses. In: Klausner JD, Hook EW, III. eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2007.
  • American Sexual Health Association. Crabs Accessed 12/11/2014.

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