19 Pictures of Common Bug Bites and How to Identify Their Symptoms

Tungiasis, also known as sand flea disease, is a tropical disease caused by adult female sand fleas burrowing into the skin. They leave behind circular lesions in the toes or feet that often get irritated, itchy, and inflamed.

Currently, there are no vaccines or drugs to prevent infection. The best prevention is to take protective measures against sand flies.

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Sand fleas are pesky bugs that burrow into your skin and cause irritation and inflammation. Although they aren’t common in the US, they are common in places like Mexico and Africa.

Leishmaniasis cases can be found worldwide, including some parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, southern Europe, Mexico, and Central and South America. Most of the positive leishmaniasis cases in the U.S. “are from people who traveled internationally, often to Latin America,” Cama added.

Daniel More, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI, FACP, is a board-certified allergist and former clinical immunologist at Allergy Partners of the Central California Coast.

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These sand fleas are usually found in tropical areas and sandy climates like beaches, stables, and farms. You may find them in:

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This is technically called tungiasis, or an infestation by the Tunga penetrans. The female’s head will be burrowed into the skin, but her rear end isn’t, which allows her to expel eggs to the ground after mating. The female dies after expelling eggs—about 100 or so over a two-week period—and then will fall out of the foot to the ground.

You can view an images of flea bites below:

Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the form that causes skin sores. Visceral affects internal organs, such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow, and mucocutaneous destroys the body’s mucus membranes of the nose, mouth, and throat. Of the three, cutaneous is the most common form detected both in the U.S. and around the world, Cama said. The CDC estimates anywhere from 700,000 to 1.2 million people around the world experience cutaneous leishmaniasis each year.

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Adult female fleas pose the most risk to humans. While both adult male and female fleas feed on warm-blooded hosts, like humans, the adult mated females burrow into the skin of humans (more on that later).

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Pictures of Sand Flea Bites: What Do They Look Like?

Usually, people don’t notice sand flea bites as they’re happening. The fleas are tiny and usually attach themselves to the ankles or feet, meaning you might not even notice when they first make contact with the body.

Over time, the round skin lesion gets darker until it is uniformly black. There may also be inflammation, pain, swelling, and itching in the affected area of the skin.

Leishmaniasis is far from common in the U.S. In Texas—the only state that requires public health reporting of leishmaniasis—an average of six cases are documented each year. The reason to take notice of the disease and its tiny sand fly vectors now is that researchers are starting to notice more cases are originating in the U.S. than usual.

19 Pictures of Common Bug Bites and How to Identify Their Symptoms

Sand Flea Bites: What They Look Like, Treatment & Prevention

Sand fleas are very tiny and usually penetrate the toes or feet. After burrowing under the skin they typically form a white, disc-like shape with a black point at the center.

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Marcos said that the skin lesions should disappear without intervention within two to three months. If they don’t go away on their own, become painful, or leak fluid, Marcos said that treatment may be needed. If skin lesions are left untreated, they can turn into scars.

Sand flea bites (and sand flea disease) aren’t common in the United States, but they are possible. If you notice any signs of skin inflammation or irritation after visiting the beach, talk to a healthcare provider about treatment options. In the meantime, try to avoid touching the affected area too much in order to prevent infection and other complications.

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