Molluscum Contagiosum

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a harmless minor skin rash that goes away on its own after a while.

The rash looks like one or more small growths or wart-like bumps that are usually pink, white, or skin-colored. These bumps often are soft and smooth and may have an indented center. They are commonly found on head, neck, trunk, upper arms, legs, and genital area.

What causes Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a poxvirus. This virus thrives in warm, humid climates and in areas where people live very close together.

How is Molluscum Contagiosum spread?

  • It spreads easily, and most commonly, through direct skin-to-skin contact. It can spread by touching objects that have the virus on them, such as toys, clothing, towels, and bedding.
  • It can be spread from one part of the body to another by scratching or rubbing the bumps and then touching another part of the body.
  • It can also can be spread by sexual contact.

Symptoms

The symptoms of molluscum contagiosum are small round pink, white, or skin-colored bumps on the skin filled with a white, waxy pus core that contains the virus, and might have a shiny or "pearly" look.

In sexually active teens and adults, the bumps are usually located in the genital area or the inner thighs. Rarely, the bumps can occur around the eyes and in or around the mouth.

Most people can develop between 1 and 20 mollusca. They're usually painless, but can become itchy, red, swollen, sore, and infected, especially if scratched.

How is Molluscum Contagiosum treated?

This condition generally resolved on its own in 6-12 months, and does not have to be treated. If parents wish to treat this condition, there are several options available:

  • A topical cream called Aldara can be applied three times a week for 2-3 months.
  • A liquid called Cantharone can be applied to each individual lesion. This causes the area treated to blister within 1-6 hours. Once itching or blistering occurs, the treated areas should be gently cleansed in a bath (Do not scrub). Antibiotic ointment (Polysporin) should then be applied to each lesion until healing is seen. This is repeated monthly and 1-5 treatments may be needed.
  • In older children and adults, single lesions may be treated by freezing with liquid nitrogen, however this is an uncomfortable procedure.
  • The lesions may become sore or crusted, this is due to secondary infection. In these cases, treatment with an antibiotic cream or ointment is helpful.

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