Molluscum Contagiosum

We commonly treat molluscum contagiosum at Vujevich Dermatology Associates.

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum Contagiosum is an infection caused by poxvirus, also known as molluscum contagiosum virus, that causes lesions known as Mollusca. The mild skin disease resulting from the virus causes these lesions. Most people will have about 10-20 lesions appear, although if you have a weakened immune system, you may notice more. The virus, and lesions, typically disappears in six to twelve months. However, for some people the lesions may not disappear for up to four years.

The lesions that appear due to the molluscum contagiosum virus are small and raised. They are usually white, pink, or flesh-colored and have a dimple or pit in the center of the lesion. They can often appear pearly. These mollusucum lesions range in size, anywhere from the head of a needle to the size of a pencil eraser. The bumps can become itchy, red, or swollen.

These lesions can be found anywhere on the body. However, they are rarely found on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Most people do not have lesions that result in scarring.

Is This Condition Contagious?

In short, yes, molluscum contagiosum is contagious. The virus spreads through direct person-to-person contact and through contaminated fomites. Fomites are objects that can become infected, such as clothing, bath sponges, toys, and pool equipment. While it has not been proven, there are concerns about the virus spreading when sharing swimming pools, baths, etc. Mollusca can take up to eight weeks to appear following contact with contaminated objects or direct physical contact with someone who has molluscum contagiosum.

You can also spread molluscum contagiosum to other parts of your body. If you touch a lesion and then touch another part of your body without washing your hands, the virus can spread to the unaffected area of the body. Shaving can also cause the virus to spread.

Doctors are not certain if contact with intact lesions can spread the virus. However, we do know that molluscum contagiosum cannot be spread through sneezing and coughing. The virus lives in the top layer of the skin and does not circulate throughout the body. Once the lesions have disappeared, you are no longer contagious.

Who is Most Likely to Contract Molluscum Contagiosum?

While you can contract molluscum contagiosum at any age, children between the ages of one and ten are mostly likely to contract the virus. If your child plays contact sports, it is important to remind them not to share towels or equipment and to check their skin for lesions frequently.

It is also commonly diagnosed in people who have weakened immune systems or chronic skin conditions. If you have a weakened immune system, molluscum contagiosum can appear differently. The growths may be larger and more difficult to treat. If you have atopic dermatitis, frequent breaks in the skin can make you more susceptible to contracting the virus.

It also has been found that people who live in warm climates are more likely to come into contact with molluscum contagiosum. This is due to the virus thriving in warm, humid climates. People who live in crowded areas can also come into contact with the virus more frequently.

How Do I Treat Molluscum Contagiosum?

Most molluscum contagiosum cases can be treated at home. It is important to avoid scratching molluscum bumps even though they may be itchy. Moisturizing the affected areas can help decrease itchiness. Not only can open lesions spread the virus to other areas of your body, but open wounds can become infected. It is also important to keep the mollusca clean and to wash your hands after touching them. Covering the molluscum bumps will help avoid transmission from one person to another.

When showering, avoid shaving areas affected by molluscum bumps. This can cause the bumps to spread to other areas of your body. It is also recommended to use two towels when drying off, one for unaffected areas of skin and one for areas with molluscum bumps. If your child has molluscum contagiosum and at home treatment is not helping, it is time to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist who specializes in pediatric dermatology.

Your pediatric dermatologist can help treat molluscum contagiosum symptoms, such as itching, and can help control the spread of the virus.  Your dermatologist can recommend physical removal of the lesions, oral therapy, or topical therapy as treatment options for molluscum bumps.

  • Physical Removal. Lesions can be removed by a trained professional using cryotherapy (freezing the lesions off with liquid nitrogen), curettage (scraping away layers of the skin at a time), or laser therapy. This treatment option must be done by a trained professional and can cause pain, irritation, and scarring.
  • Oral Therapy. Oral cimetidine is preferred for children as parents can give the child the medication in the comfort of their own home.  It also less painful and can aid in avoiding scarring from physical removal of the lesions. Cimetidine is safe and painless but is not very efficient at removing lesions from the face.
  • Topical Therapy. Podophyllotoxin cream (0.5%) is often used as a topical treatment for molluscum contagiosum. However, it can be toxic to unborn fetuses, so it is not prescribed to pregnant women. Other topical treatments include salicylic acid, tretinoin, and cantharidin, among others.  Topical treatments must be applied to each lesion to be effective. Topical treatments must be prescribed by your dermatologist so as not to irritate the molluscum more.

If you or your child have molluscum contagiosum and at-home treatments have not been effective or you have any further concerns, contact our team to schedule an appointment with Vujevich Dermatology Associates today.