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What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Jul 14, 2019

   5 min     



Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection of the skin caused by a poxvirus (molluscum contagiosum virus). It is most common in children but can affect adults also, particularly those who have a weakened the immune system. 

The infection results in a benign, mild skin disease characterized by round, firm, painless bumps or lesions (growths) which vary in size and that may appear anywhere on the body. These bumps are called molluscum bodies, Mollusca, or condyloma subcutaneum. They can be small or raised and are generally white, pink, or flesh-coloured with a pit or dimple in the centre. They oftentimes have a pear-like appearance. They are generally firm and smooth. In most cases, these lesions range from about the size of a pinhead to as large as a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimetres in diameter). They may become red, itchy, swollen and sore.

Within 6-12 months, Molluscum contagiosum typically resolves on its own, and the bumps gradually disappear without scarring but may take as long as four years.

Transmission of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum, as the name suggests, is a contagious disease and spreads easily through person to person contact, sexual contact with an affected partner, contact with infected objects and scratching or rubbing the bumps. 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.

What are the symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum?

Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include bumps on the skin that:

  • Are raised, round and flesh-coloured
  • Are small
  • Can become red and inflame
  • Maybe itchy
  • Can be easily removed by scratching or rubbing
  • Usually appear on face, neck, armpits, and tops of the hand
  • May be seen on genitals, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs in adults if the infection was sexually transmitted.

How is Molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

It can usually be diagnosed just by looking at the bumps. A biopsy or skin scraping can confirm the diagnosis. The doctor will take skin scrapings from the infected area and view under the microscope to avoid any confusion.

It is generally not needed to treat molluscum contagiosum, but in case the skin lesions last longer than a few days, you should have your doctor examine it. A proper diagnosis of molluscum contagiosum will cut out other causes for the lesions, such as wartschickenpoxskin cancer.

How is Molluscum contagiosum treated?

Molluscum contagiosum gets better without any medication in six to 12 months. But the bumps will continue to develop for up to five years. You will be no longer contagious once the bumps are gone.

It is recommended to remove lesions before they disappear on their own, especially in adults, because they are so contagious. The doctor will administer general anaesthesia before removing the lesions to lessen the discomfort.

Some circumstances justify the need for treatment. You may be a candidate for treatment if:

  • your lesions are large and located on your face and neck
  • you have an existing skin disease such as atopic dermatitis
  • you have serious concerns about spreading the virus

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, let your doctor know about the condition or before opting for any kind of medications. If your immune system is weakened by any serious disease such as HIV or because of drugs such as those used for treating cancer, it may be required to treat molluscum contagiosum. Successful treatment is extra difficult for people who have a weakened immune system than it is for those with healthy immunity.

Five methods to remove lesions:

The most effective treatments for molluscum contagiosum are performed by a doctor. These are the following:

Scraping: It involves scraping the papule away using a curet, a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge, possibly under local anaesthesia.

Freezing (cryotherapy): In this procedure, the pressurized liquid spray is used to freeze the papule. Each lesion is frozen for up to 10 seconds, or until a layer of ice forms over the spot and surrounding skin.

Diathermy: In this procedure, a heated electrical device is used to burn off the Mollusca under local anaesthesia.

Laser therapy: In this procedure, intense, narrow beams of light are used to treat MCV.

Chemical treatment: In this procedure, the doctor uses a sharp metal instrument which I dipped into either podophyllin or phenol and then pricks each Mollusca. This procedure cause scarring and is not comfortable.

Since these methods include treating each growth and bump, a procedure may need more than one session. In case you have a lot of large bumps, additional treatment may be required every three to six weeks until the bumps start to disappear. New bumps may even appear while the existing bumps get treated.

Risk factors of Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum infections may occur in people with weakened immune systems. The bumps caused by it may become red and inflamed. Avoid scratching the bumps to prevent severe infection. If lesions appear on the eyelids, pink eye can develop.

How can you prevent Molluscum contagiosum?

The best way to prevent getting molluscum contagiosum is to avoid touching the skin of another person who has the infection.

You can prevent the infection from spreading by following these suggestions:

  • Keep your hands clean- wash thoroughly with soap and warm water
  • Instruct kids in proper hand-washing techniques as they are more likely to come in contact while playing and interaction with other people.
  • Avoid picking, touching and scratching the bumps or areas of your affected skin.
  • Keep the bumps covered and clean to prevent yourself as well as others from touching them and growing the virus.
  • Avoid sharing personal items which include clothing, towels, hairbrushes and other personal things.
  • Avoid using shared sports gear which may have come in close contact with someone else’s naked body or skin.
  • Avoid sexual contact with the infected person.
  • Cover the bumps with any cloth while you are around others, to limit direct contact.
  • Avoid using electrolysis or shaving where the bumps have occurred.

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