Molluscum contagiosum

What is Molluscum contagiosum (MC)?

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a disease named after the virus it is caused by, the Molluscum Contagiosum virus (MCV). This is a common viral infection in children and adults which presents as a skin breakout. It is described as multiple, small, dome-shaped bumps, ranging in color from skin-colored to white, and can vary in sizes from as small as a pinhead to as large as a pencil eraser. They often have a visible tiny dimple in the center. The bumps do not hurt and usually do not itch. Most people have a group or line of bumps together. People with a weakened immune system may develop larger bumps in large groups.

Is MC contagious?

Yes, it is very contagious! However, once the bumps have resolved, you can no longer spread the virus.

How is MC transferred?

The skin bumps developed on the infected area carry the MC virus that can be transferred to others by skin-to-skin contact or by contact with a contaminated object, such as a used towel or washcloth. MC can also be transferred from one area of the body to another by scratching or touching a bump.

Location of skin bumps in adult

Skin breakouts caused by MC usually occur on the torso, arms, and legs since children can become infected during a contact sport or other activities. However, the bumps can appear anywhere on the body except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

How did I get molluscum contagiosum?

You must have come into contact with the MC virus by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or by contact with a surface that has the virus on it. As a result, this means that you can spread the virus if you have MC bumps on your skin.

When did I come in contact with the virus?

The bumps usually appear two to six weeks after you are exposed to the virus.

How can I know that I have MC and not other types of skin bumps?

There are many other skin diseases that can present with similar skin bumps. Nevertheless, Dr. Shafa can usually diagnose molluscum contagiosum based on a thorough exam. If the diagnosis is uncertain, Dr. Shafa will examine your skin lesion with a dermoscope, a handheld skin microscope. If the skin bumps look strange or they are unresponsive to treatment, a skin biopsy of the bump will be suggested to confirm the diagnosis microscopically.

Why is treatment for MC suggested?

Untreated MC can remain persistent for months up to a year. Since it is a highly contagious skin infection, it can be transferred to another part of the body or to other people coming in contact with the infected skin. Furthermore, the virus can survive on objects for a period of time and can contaminate others who come into contact with the objects (clothes, towels, bedding, toys).

Typically, individuals infected with MC virus desire treatment for cosmetic reasons and prevention of spread to new areas on the skin as well as to other individuals. People with weakened immune systems can develop severe and long-lasting infections.

How is MC treated?

We do not treat MC viruses by oral medication. Treatment commonly consists of local destruction of the lesion to stimulate your immune system. We can perform such a treatment with many different modalities.

What are treatment options to some of the frequently performed treatments for MC:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing of the lesion with liquid nitrogen)
  • Curettage (shaving the lesion deeply from the skin)
  • Cantharidin (a chemical derived from beetles to induce blister formation)
  • Podophyllotoxin (a medication that can be applied directly to the MC bumps)
  • No treatment for MC is also one treatment options since in healthy people MC can disappear over time

What is the best treatment?

Treatment usually depends on the following factors:

Some of the frequently performed treatments for MC include:

  • Location of the MC bumps
  • Patient’s age, lifestyle, and preference

Side effects of the MC treatment?

Treatment of the MC may cause some discomfort and skin irritation at the side of treatment. Darker skin individuals may have discoloration of rare scarring at the site of the procedure. Avoid scraping off the bumps while they are healing because you may spread the virus to other areas or cause secondary infection with bacteria.

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