Pubic lice (Phthirus pubis) are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair.
As well as being found in pubic hair, the lice are also sometimes found in:
Unlike head lice, pubic lice don't live in scalp hair.
Pubic lice are spread through close bodily contact, most commonly sexual contact.
Pubic lice aren't related to poor personal hygiene. They're usually spread through close bodily contact with an infected person.
The lice crawl from hair to hair, but can't fly or jump. They need human blood to survive, so will only leave the body to move from one person to another.
The most common way pubic lice are spread is through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Using condoms and other methods of barrier contraception doesn't protect you against pubic lice.
Other types of close bodily contact, such as hugging and kissing, can also spread the lice.
It's also possible - though much rarer - for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.
<p>Pubic lice (Phthirus pubis) are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair.</p>
<p>itching in the affected areas; inflammation and irritation caused by scratching; black powder in your underwear; blue spots or small spots of blood on your skin, such as on your thighs or lower abdomen (caused by lice bites)</p>
<p>Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. Your GP or pharmacist can advise you about which treatment to use and how to use it. It's important to follow this advice.</p>