Molluscum contagiosum is a common, usually harmless skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus. The virus causes small, raised spots that can spread through skin-to-skin contact. It is more common in children, but can affect people of all ages. You can find more information below.
What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection caused by a pox virus (M. contagiosum virus). The result of infection is usually a benign, mild skin disease characterized by lesions (growths) that can occur anywhere on the body. Molluscum contagiosum typically resolves without scarring within 6-12 months, although this may take up to 4 years.
The lesions, known as mollusks, are small, raised, and usually white, pink, or tan, with a central pit. They are usually smooth and firm. In most people, lesions range from about the size of a pinhead to a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimeters in diameter). They may be itchy, painful, red, or swollen.
Molluska can occur singly or in groups on any part of the body, including the face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, and genitals. Lesions are rarely found on the hands, palms, or soles of the feet.
What causes molluscum contagiosum?
The virus that causes this infection spreads easily through:
- Contact with infected skin
- Contact with contaminated objects such as towels
- Sexual contact with an affected partner
- Carrying the virus to different parts of the body by scratching
It is not clear whether the virus that causes this infection can spread in chlorinated water found in swimming pools. Experts suspect that swimmers are more likely to transmit the virus using shared towels and the like.
Who is at risk?
More common molluscum contagiosum infections may occur in people with weakened immune systems.
What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?
Symptoms include bumps on the skin such as:
- Elevated, round and tan
- Small – usually about 1/4 inch in diameter (less than 6 millimeters)
- Characteristically there is a small indentation (navel) or dot at the top near the center
- May become red and inflamed
- It can be itchy
- It can easily spread to different areas by scratching or rubbing.
- Often seen in children on the hands, neck, armpits, arms
- If the infection is sexually transmitted, it can occur in adults on the genitals, lower abdomen, and upper thighs.
When should you see a doctor?
If you think that you or your child has this infection, it would be beneficial to see a doctor without wasting time.
How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?
Your doctor can usually diagnose molluscum contagiosum just by looking at it. If there is any doubt, he or she can take skin scrapings from the infected area and diagnose it by viewing it under a microscope.
How is molluscum contagiosum treated?
This infection usually clears up without treatment within six to 12 months. However, it is possible to continue to develop swelling for up to five years. After all the lesions are gone, you are no longer contagious.
Doctors may recommend removing the lesions before they go away on their own, especially in adults, because they are so contagious. Treatment for molluscum contagiosum can be painful, so an anesthetic may be administered beforehand to reduce discomfort. Sometimes a combination of treatments may also be used.
Options include :
- Donma (cryotherapy)
Can molluscum contagiosum be prevented?
To help prevent the spread of the virus:
- Wash your hands : Keeping your hands clean can help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Avoid touching the bumps: Shaving over infected areas can also spread the virus.
- Do not share personal items: This includes clothes, towels, hairbrushes or other personal items. Avoid borrowing even pens from others.
- Avoid sexual contact: If you have molluscum contagiosum on or near your genitals, do not have sexual intercourse until the lesions are treated and completely gone.
- Cover bumps: Cover areas of lesions with clothing to avoid direct contact. You can also cover it with a waterproof bandage while swimming.
The bumps and surrounding skin may become red and inflamed. This is thought to be an immune response to infection. If you scratch the affected areas, these areas can become infected. If lesions appear on the eyelids, conjunctivitis may develop.