Molluscum contagiosum: a common viral disease of the skin
What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral disease of the skin. It spreads from contact from affected individuals very quickly. It is common in children and rare in adults.
What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?
The symptoms usually appear after seven weeks after infection and may not even be evident up to a couple of months.
The symptoms can include:
- White, pink or flesh-coloured, tiny bumps that are smooth
- The bump size ranges from a pinhead to a 2-5 mm pencil eraser size
- Lone or a group of painless lesions
- They can be itchy
- The bumps appear like a dome with a dimple in the centre
- In kids, they are found in the face, abdomen, arms, legs or torso
- In adults, they can be present on the genitals, thighs or abdomen
The virus called molluscum contagiosum virus causes this skin infection. It is a poxvirus and spreads by:
- Skin-to-skin direct contact
- Even from indirect contacts like use of used towels or any other shared item
- In adults via sexual contact
- Scratching or shaving can lead to fresh infections on new site
- Children of age 1-10
- Adults with a compromised immune system (due to HIV, cancer treatment, etc.)
- Tropical climate
- Contact sports
Based on the distinct characteristics of this skin condition, your doctor can easily diagnose it. A skin biopsy may be ordered to rule out other illnesses like chickenpox, skin cancer or warts.
Often treatment may not be necessary if one has a healthy immune system. Such bumps normally resolve on their own. However, if the lesions are on the face or one has other skin conditions, treatment might be required. Treatment will prevent further spread of infection to other parts of the body which can include:
Medicines: Your doctor can prescribe antivirals, retinoids and ointments.
Procedures to remove the bumps include:
- Cryosurgery: The bumps are frozen with liquid nitrogen.
- Laser surgery: Lasers are used to destroy the bumps.
- Curettage: Here, the bumps are scraped with a tool from the skin.
- Topical therapy: Diverse acids and blistering solutions are used to destroy the bumps.
To prevent the disease from spreading:
- Ensure your hands are clean
- Keep the lesions covered with bandage
- Do not share your personal clothing or towels
- Safe sex for adults is advised
The possible complications include:
- Secondary infection due to scratching
- On the eyelid, it can lead to conjunctivitis
If your child has been diagnosed with molluscum contagiosum, take measures not to spread the infection to others. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and visit your doctor for follow-up visits.
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