What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection caused by a virus that results in benign lesions all over the body. The lesions are commonly referred to as mollusca.
Which areas of the body are most affected by molluscum contagiosum?
Mollusca may occur anywhere on the body, alone or in groups. The lesions are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Molluscum contagiousum most frequently appears on the following areas:
- Genital area
What are the most common symptoms of molluscum contagiosum? What does molluscum contagiosum look like?
- Small, raised white and pink lesions with a dimple or pit in the center
- Itchy, sore, red, swollen bumps
- Pearly growths that look like they are filled with liquid
- Smooth and firm bumps
- Range in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser
How is molluscum contagiosum spread?
Molluscum contagiosum is a highly contagious virus, spread from person to person contact as well as object to person contact. Everyday objects such as furniture, linens, clothing, towels, bathing sponges, pool equipment, and toys are common contact sources. It’s common for children to contract the virus in school. In adults, molluscum contagiosum is frequently acquired at the gym or through sexual contact.
I’m itchy! Can I scratch my rash?
Never scratch your rash, no matter how itchy it becomes. If you break open the lesions by scratching, you run the risk of contracting a painful bacterial infection within your rash. It’s especially important not to scratch your mollusca, because you may release fluid and unintentionally spread the virus to other parts of your body. It’s also important to remember that when you scratch, you are likely to shed tiny flakes of skin onto surrounding objects, making it more likely that you will spread molluscum contagiosum to others.
What types of treatment are available for molluscum contagiosum?
Your doctor may recommend freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen or removing them with a curette. Laser therapy may also be recommended in more severe cases. These treatment methods are the fastest and most effective way to eliminate mollusca, though the process can be slightly painful. Local anesthesia is often used, and your doctor may recommend a mild pain medication while you are healing.
Gradual elimination of molluscum contagiosum may be achieved through oral medication, such as cimetidine. This treatment is effective, but it takes longer to see results. While oral medication is safe, painless, and well tolerated, it is not as effective on facial mollusca. Oral medication is most commonly recommended for children, because it is an easier treatment method compared to physical lesion removal.
A variety of prescription topical creams and ointments are available for the treatment of molluscum contagiosum. Topical treatments effectively reduce the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum, but they are not fully effectively at killing the virus that causes molluscum contagiosum.
How long do molluscum contagiosum flare ups last?
Within 6-12 months, molluscum contagiosum typically resolves without scarring. In more severe cases, it may take as long as 4 years to completely clear.