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Medical Dermatology

Molluscum Contagiosum

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that is caused by a virus. The virus causes small, flesh-colored bumps to form on the skin. The bumps are benign and are not painful, but they can be itchy.

The virus that causes molluscum contagiosum lives on the top layer of the skin and is spread through direct contact with an infected person or through contact with contaminated objects. An individual who has molluscum contagiosum can spread it to other parts of their body. It can also be spread through sexual contact. Many cases in adults are spread through sexual contact. When the virus infects the genitals, usually from sexual contact, it is considered a sexually transmitted infection.

Who is at risk of developing molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is most common in children ages 1-10, but it can occur in adults as well. The infection is more common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer. It is also more common in people who have had recent skin trauma, such as a sunburn.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The most common symptom of molluscum contagiosum is the development of small, flesh-colored bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually round and have a dimple in the center. They are often found on the face, neck, armpits, groin, and thighs. The bumps may be itchy but are usually not painful unless they are scratched or rubbed and become infected. Scratching can spread the infection to the surrounding skin. The bumps are contagious until they are gone.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed based on the appearance of the bumps on the skin. Your doctor may also perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for molluscum contagiosum?

There is no cure for molluscum contagiosum. Most people with molluscum contagiosum do not need treatment. The bumps usually go away on their own within 6 to 12 months, but in some cases can take years to resolve. However, recovery does not prevent future infection.

Treatment is frequently recommended for molluscum in the genital area and when a child could spread the virus to other children. An oral medication, called cimetidine, is often prescribed to treat young children with molluscum. For immunocompromised individuals, therapies targeted at boosting the immune system have been proven to be effective. Treatment may be recommended when the bumps are painful and itchy.

If you have molluscum contagiosum and want to get rid of the bumps faster,  there are several treatment options available. These include cryotherapy (freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen), laser therapy, and topical prescription creams. These treatments can be painful and may cause scarring.

Can molluscum contagiosum be prevented?

There is no vaccine available to prevent molluscum contagiosum. The best way to prevent the infection is to avoid direct contact with someone who has it. You should also avoid sharing towels, clothing, or other personal items with someone who has the infection.

The most common complication is a secondary bacterial infection which can be problematic in people with weakened immune systems. It is important to see Dr. Camp or Dr. Zhang to assure you have this condition.

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