Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin disease caused by a virus. As the name implies, it is a contagious disease which can spread easily from person to person. Usually the only sign of molluscum is pink or flesh-colored bumps that can appear anywhere on the skin. Most people get about 10 to 20 bumps on their skin, but if a person has a weakened immune system, more bumps often appear.
What are the signs and symptoms of molluscum?
Molluscum appears as small, flesh-colored or pink bumps with a shiny surface and slightly depressed center, or dimple. They often develop on the face, eyelids, neck, and extremities. The good news is that the virus never affects the internal organs, rather it can only affect the skin and mucous membranes. Molluscum bumps are not painful but may be itchy for some people.
What are the causes of molluscum contagiosum?
A virus causes molluscum. There are 2 ways to get this virus:
1. Touch something infected with the virus such as an infected towel, clothing, or toys. Wrestlers and gymnasts often get it from touching infected mats.
2. Have direct skin-to-skin contact. Children often get molluscum because they have a lot of direct skin-to-skin contact with others. Teens and adults often get the virus through sexual contact.
After contact with the virus, molluscum may incubate for 2-8 weeks before appearing on the skin. Scratching or picking the bumps is one way the virus can spread. Areas of the body where rubbing/friction of skin surfaces occurs (for example, the inner arm and sides of the belly) are common locations for the disease.
If the bumps become red and form pus bumps resembling pimples, this can mean that the patient’s immune system is recognizing the virus and is starting to clear the infection. If there is no pain or fever, the molluscum bump is unlikely to be “infected”.
Who contracts molluscum contagiosum most commonly?
Young to school-age children often get this disease, however, anyone can get it. People can get molluscum by sharing towels and clothing. It’s important for parents who have children in contact sports to check their child’s skin from time to time.
People who live in a tropical climate also are more likely to get molluscum contagiosum. The virus thrives in a warm, humid place. Having atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, also increases the risk of getting the disease. A person with a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or treatment for cancer can get a serious case of molluscum contagiosum.
When a child gets this skin condition, researchers have found that the skin often clears on its own. There are multiple methods of treatment for molluscum contagiosum; and a board-certified dermatologist should determine whether treatment is appropriate for each patient.
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