Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a viral infection of the skin or occasionally of the mucous membranes that causes either single or multiple raised, pearl-like bumps (papules) on the skin. MC is a chronic infection that is part of the pox virus family in which lesions can persist from a few months to a few years. The virus is contagious through direct contact and is more common in children. It can spread on a single individual through scratching and rubbing. In most cases, lesions disappear in six to nine months. In adults, MC infections are often sexually transmitted and usually affect the lower abdomen, genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. There are rare cases in which the infections are also found on the eyelids, lips, and mouth.

What does Molluscum Contagiosum look like?

MCs are normally small dome-shaped, flesh-colored growths that often become inflamed. They can appear glossy with a tiny dark indentation in the middle. Because they can spread through skin-to-skin contact, MCs are mostly found in areas of skin that touch each other such as the folds in the groin and underarm. They are also found in clusters on the abdomen, buttocks, and chest and can appear on the face and eyelids as well.

A person with an immune system disease may exhibit MCs that are large in size and number, especially on the facial area. To confirm the diagnosis of MC, your doctor may collect some skin tissue from the growth and examine it under a microscope. This procedure is called a biopsy.

MC usually results in papules that:

  • Are generally painless, but can itch
  • Are small (2 to 5 millimeter diameter)
  • Have a dimple in the center
  • Are initially firm, dome-shaped and flesh-colored
  • Become softer with time
  • Have a central core of white, waxy material

How is Molluscum Contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum can be diagnosed clinically by its clinical appearance or by biopsy with microscopic examination.

How is Molluscum Contagiosum treated?

MCs are treated in much the same way as warts:

  • Frozen with liquid nitrogen
  • Destroyed with various acids or blistering solutions
  • Treated with an electric needle (electrocautery)
  • Scraped off with a sharp instrument (curette)
  • Laser therapy

Not treating the growth and waiting for it to go away on it own is an option, especially with young children. Generally, the infection will last from 6 to 8 weeks. Depending on the number of lesions and location, treatment is often unnecessary. However, treatment may be requested or recommended for the following reasons:

Medical Reasons:

  • Bleeding
  • Secondary infections
  • Itching and discomfort
  • Potential scarring
  • Chronic keratoconjunctivitis

Social Reasons:

  • Cosmetic
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear of transmission to others
  • Social exclusion

How to prevent Molluscum Contagiosum

To prevent MC from spreading:

  • Try not to scratch. Put a piece of tape or a bandage over any bumps.
  • Avoid contact sports, swimming pools, shared baths and articles of clothing (towels).
  • If bumps are on the face, avoid shaving.
  • If bumps are on the genital area, avoid sexual activity.