Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious viral skin infection, which is caused by poxvirus. It is characterized by raised skin lesions that appear to be firm and round, which are usually pink or flesh-colored. It takes 6 to 12 months for molluscum contagiosum to be resolved. The incubation period of the virus is usually about 2 weeks to 6 months.
Molluscum contagiosum primarily affects the children under 10 years of age. However, the virus can also infect adolescents and adults. The patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or weakened immune system are easily prone to the infection. It can spread by a direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum may be:
- Painless and itchy lesions
- Small and smooth in appearance
- White, pink or flesh-colored
- Firm and dome-shaped lesions
- Dent or dimple in the center
- Filled with central core of white, waxy material
- Commonly found on face, neck, arms, armpits, torso, and legs
- Seen on inner thighs, lower abdomen, and genitals
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by molluscum contagiosum virus, also called as poxvirus. The virus can be spread through direct with an infected person. It can also spread through sexual contact if the person’s genital areas are affected. Sharing personal items like towels, soaps, and clothing of an infected person can also spread the virus.
The following are the people who are at a greater risk of acquiring the disease:
- It is more common in children below 10 years of age
- Individuals with weakened immune system are at an increased risk
- Individuals with atopic dermatitis are likely to be affected
- Individuals living in warm and humid climatic conditions
There are no serious complications caused by molluscum contagiosum. However, the following are the problems that may occur occasionally:
- Secondary bacterial infections, such as impetigo from scratching
- Conjunctivitis or keratitis if the skin of eye or eyelid are infected
- Skin infections, such as eczema
- Giant mollusca in HIV patients or patients using immuno-suppressant drugs
- Scarring after a surgical treatment
The doctor would physically examine the distinctive appearance of the raised skin bumps. These raised lesions are often misinterpreted as chicken pox or skin cancer. If the doctor suspects it as molluscum contagiosum, a skin scraping or biopsy from the infected area is collected and is subjected to microscopic examination to confirm the diagnosis.
In most of the cases, the lesions or bumps will fade away without any medical treatment. However, if there is a continuous development of lesions the following are the treatment options:
Medications – The doctor would prescribe certain topical medications, which should be applied directly to the lesions. They are:
- Salicylic acid
- Potassium hydroxide
- Povidone iodine solution
- Trichloroacetic acid
- Imiquimod cream
- Tretinoin cream
Procedures – The methods used to remove molluscum contagiosum lesions include:
- Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the bumps.
- Curettage or electrodesiccation: A small tool called curette is used to scrape the infected skin.
- Laser therapy: This is the most effective treatment where a laser beam is targeted to destroy the bumps or lesions over the skin.
The following care or measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus:
- Avoid touching, squeezing, pricking or scratching of the lesions.
- Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of the virus to the other areas.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, soaps, hairbrushes, and clothes.
- Cover the lesions with watertight bandages to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
- Avoid sexual intercourse if your genital areas are affected.
- Do not shave over the areas where the lesions are present.