Molluscum Contagiosum sounds like something Harry Potter would mutter as he waves his wand. It actually is a common viral skin infection that mainly affects children. With MRSA in the news, this skin infection is coming into parents radar as a skin infection not to be confused with staph infections. Here’s what you need to know about it.
The infection first appears as painless bumps. The bumps can disappear within a year without treatment, and if left alone the bumps cause no harm. Scratching or picking at the infection can spread it to surrounding skin, in a process called autoinoculation. (1) In about 10% of the cases, eczema develops around the lesions.
Children mainly receive this skin infection, but adults have been known to contract this virus. Adults with altered immune systems are particularly susceptible to Molluscum contagiosum.
If molluscum contagiosum appears on the genitals then it can be considered a sexual infection at that point. This particular virus is spread person-to-person.
The bumps are round, raised and flesh-colored. They have a small indentation or dot on the top of them. The bumps can become red and inflamed. The rash can appear on the face, armpits, hands, neck and arms.
If scratched or rubbed they will come off, but them spread to nearby skin, so don’t scratch.
When considered a sexually transmitted disease it can be found on the genitals, on the lower abdomen, inner upper thighs, and also on the buttocks. This is not related to genital warts and is not a serious infection.
Adults, who contract molluscum contagiosum, should be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases. The virus that causes molluscum contatiosum is a member of the poxvirus family. It spreads by skin-to-skin contact through contaminated objects like toys, doorknobs, faucet handles and other objects.
Warmth and moisture can spread the virus to nearby skin as well as scratching or rubbing. Individuals should seek medical attention if you suspect you or a child has the skin infection.
Molluscum contagiosum clears up on its own in 6 to 18 months. (2) Children may take longer to heal.
Doctors may remove the infection to stop the spread to nearby skin by scraping or using curettage, or by surgical removal, freezing (cryotherapy) or by using laser therapy. Wart medications may also remove molluscum contagiosum papules.
If the individual has any other skin disorders like atopic eczema or a weakened immune system the infection can become progressively worse and more extensive so these individuals should seek medical intervention.
A 2003 study published in Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (3) looked at using photodynamic therapy treatment as an option for treating molluscum contagiosum virus in HIV patients and concluded it holds promise, but needs more study.
Pulsed dye laser therapy for molluscum contagiosum has been documented as having excellent results. Lesions resolved without scarring after 2 weeks. Studies show 96%99% of the lesions resolved with one treatment. (4,5)
Dye lasers are a type of laser that uses an organic dye as the lasing medium, instead of gases or solid state lasing media. Pulsed dyes can usually be used for a much wider range of wavelengths. However, removal of the bumps does not constitute a cure of the disease. The MC virus is in the skin and new bumps often appear over the course of a year until the body mounts an effective immune response to the virus. Therefore, surgical treatment may require repetition each time new sets of lesions appear.
Preventing the spread of this skin infection:
Avoid touching, scratching or rubbing the papules.
Do not shave over the area
Do not share towels, razors or other personal items with others.
Avoid sexual contact until the papules have completely healed.
As with all skin-to-skin contact infections, it is important to wash hands frequently, avoid sharing utensils and all personal items with the affected individuals. Wash towels and bed linens in hot water and soap.
1. Weller R, O’Callaghan CJ, MacSween RM, White MI (1999).