Molluscum Contagiosum: Do I Have It?

Molluscum Contagiosum: Do I Have It?

Noted new bumps that don’t look too typical?

Looks like a glazed donut?

Well, maybe you have Molluscum Contagiosum!

It is a common viral skin infection that causes localised clusters of epidermal papules called mollusca. It is an infection caused by a poxvirus. The result of the infection is usually a benign, mild skin disease characterized by lesions (growths) that may appear anywhere on the body. Typically, molluscum contagiosum is self-limiting and would be completely resolved in 9-12 months.

The lesions, known as Mollusca, are small, raised, and usually white, pink, or flesh-colored with a dimple or pit in the center. They often have a pearly appearance. They’re usually smooth and firm. In most people, the lesions range from about the size of a pinhead to as large as a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimeters in diameter). They may become itchy, sore, red, and/or swollen.

Mollusca may occur anywhere on the body including the face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, and genital area, alone or in groups. The lesions are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet.


Is it contagious?

The virus that causes molluscum spreads from direct person-to-person physical contact and through contaminated fomites. Fomites are inanimate objects that can become contaminated with virus; in the instance of molluscum contagiosum this can include linens such as clothing and towels, bathing sponges, pool equipment, and toys. Someone with molluscum can spread it to other parts of their body by touching or scratching a lesion and then touching their body somewhere else. 

The molluscum contagiosum virus remains in the top layer of skin (epidermis) and does not circulate throughout the body; therefore, it cannot spread through coughing or sneezing. Since the virus lives only in the top layer of skin, once the lesions are gone the virus is gone and you cannot spread it to others.

People at increased risk for getting the disease include:

  • People with weakened immune systems (i.e., HIV-infected persons or persons being treated for cancer) are at higher risk for getting molluscum contagiosum. Their growths may look different, be larger, and be more difficult to treat.
  • Atopic dermatitis may also be a risk factor for getting molluscum contagiosum due to frequent breaks in the skin. People with this condition also may be more likely to spread molluscum contagiosum to other parts of their body for the same reason.
  • People who live in warm, humid climates where living conditions are crowded.
  • In addition, there is evidence that molluscum infections have

Molluscum contagiosum is infectious while active. However, affected children and adults can continue to attend daycare, school and work.

To reduce spread:

  • Keep hands clean
  • Avoid scratching or shaving
  • Cover all visible lesions with clothing or watertight bandages
  • Dispose of used bandages
  • Do not share towels, clothing or other personal effects
  • Adults should practice safe sex or abstinence

Treatment options for molluscum contagiosum

Because molluscum contagiosum is self-limiting in healthy individuals, treatment may be unnecessary. There is no medication to cure the infection. Generally, the infection would clear itself in about 9-12 months.

Treatment for molluscum is usually recommended if lesions are in the genital area (on or near the penis, vulva, vagina, or anus). If lesions are found in this area it is a good idea to visit your healthcare provider as there is a possibility that you may have another disease spread by sexual contact. 

Physical removal of lesions may include cryotherapy (freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen), curettage (the piercing of the core and scraping of caseous or cheesy material). These options are rapid and require a trained health care provider, and may require local anesthesia. DO NOT try and remove lesions or the fluid inside of lesions yourself such as squeezing the lesions. By removing lesions or lesion fluid by yourself you may unintentionally autoinoculate other parts of the body or risk spreading it to others. By scratching or scraping the skin you could cause a bacterial infection.

Topical therapy includes iodine and salicylic acid, tretinoin, and imiquimod cream.

Secondary skin infection(dermatitis) may be treated symptomatically with a mild topical topical corticosteroid such as hydrocortisone cream. Dermatitis is unlikely to fully resolve until the molluscum infection has cleared up. 

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Complications

The lesions caused by molluscum are usually benign and resolve without scarring. However scratching at the lesion, or using scraping and scooping to remove the lesion, can cause scarring. For this reason, physically removing the lesion is not often recommended in otherwise healthy individuals.

The most common complication is a secondary infection caused by bacteria. Secondary infections may be a significant problem in immunocompromised patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive drug therapies. In these cases, treatment to prevent further spread of the infection is recommended.


Will I get the lesions again?

Recovery from one molluscum infection does not prevent future infections. Molluscum contagiosum is not like herpes viruses which can remain dormant (“sleeping”) in your body for long periods of time and then reappear. If you get new molluscum contagiosum lesions after you are cured, it means you have come in contact with an infected person or object again.

Also read: Molluscum Contagiosum


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