Molluscum contagiosum is a common and usually harmless skin disease caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. The virus causes small growths that can appear anywhere on the skin from one week to several months after contact.
These growths tend to appear as small, firm, dome-shaped bumps that can be white, pink or flesh-colored and are dimpled or indented in the center. They may become red and swollen, and less commonly, they may feel sore or itch. Most people see growths on areas of sin that touch, such as the bend of the arm, groin or inner thighs. Growths may also appear on the face, chest, abdomen, buttocks or eyelids.
How Molluscum Contagiosum Spreads
The virus that causes molluscum can be spread easily by:
Direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
Touching a towel, mat, toy, clothing or other object that previously touched a growth on an infected person's skin.
Once infected with the virus, you can spread it to other parts of your body by rubbing or scratching a growth and then touching an uninfected area of your skin. To prevent spreading, avoid picking at or scratching the bumps. To help prevent spreading the virus to others, keep the bumps clean and covered with a cloth or bandage.
Who gets Molluscum Contagiosum?
This skin disease is most often seen in children though anyone can be infected. Factors that increase the risk include:
Participating in close contact sports, such as wresting
Living in a tropical (warm, humid) climate
Having a weakened immune system due to a medical condition such as AIDS or cancer treatment, in which case, Molluscum Contagiosum may be much more severe.
Although growths can clear on their own without scarring, it may take months or even years. Most dermatologists recommend treatment to prevent the spread of the virus to other people or other parts of the body.
Treatments that a dermatologist can perform in the office include:
Cryosurgery: The dermatologist freezes the bumps with liquid nitrogen.
Electrocautery and/or Curettage: The dermatologist uses a small electric needle to destroy the growths and a tool called a curette to remove them.
Laser therapy: A dermatologist uses a laser to target and destroy the bumps. This can be an effective treatment for people who have a weakened immune system.
Topical (applied to the skin) therapy: Various acids and blistering solutions can be applied to effectively destroy the growths.
Your dermatologist may also prescribe topical medicine for you to apply at home. Because this medicine is strong, it should be applied exactly as directed.
It is important to treat new growths as they appear to control the spread of the virus.
Are treatments available online effective?
Treatments available online can be ineffective and even harmful. See your dermatologist to confirm that you have molluscum and receive the treatment that is right for you.
Should children be treated?
In children with only a few bumps, using only non-invasive treatment or waiting for the growths to clear on their own may make sense. However, if the condition spreads quickly, treatment is recommended.
Will it come back?
It is possible to be re-infected with the virus. Seeking treatment when the first appear makes the condition easier to control.