Molluscum Contagiosum FAQs
Molluscum contagiosum is a common but benign skin condition that’s usually more embarrassing than harmful and more itchy than painful. There may no need to address molluscum contagiosum using medical treatments if growths are few in number. However, when molluscum contagiosum spreads to the extent that growths negatively affect cosmetic appearance, this can be a cause for concern.
The cause of molluscum contagiosum is the poxvirus of the Molluscipox virus genus. The virus can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. But according to the Mayo Clinic, it can also be acquired through contaminated objects, such as faucets and doorknobs, or by sharing personal items with someone with molluscum contagiosum, such as towels, brushes, razors and even clothing.
What It Looks Like
Molluscum contagiosum growths, or mollusca, appear as small, dome-shaped growths. Growths are described as having an opalescent, waxy appearance with a small indentation in the center. Mollusca can present in isolation, but can also appear linearly or crop up in clusters. The growths may vary in size, but are usually between two and six millimeters in diameter. However, their diameter can be larger than one centimeter, particularly in people with weakened immune systems.
Who Gets It?
Molluscum contagiosum is noted all over the world, but is seen more often in children, adults who are sexually active and people with depressed immune systems. Children tend to exhibit mollusca on the face, trunk, hands and feet, while adults tend to acquire mollusca in the genital region. According to an article published by the Dermatology Journal Online, the incidence of molluscum contagiosum has risen in the last 30 years—mainly through sexual transmission of the virus—and is problematic in those with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Does it Go Away?
In healthy individuals, molluscum contagiosum can resolve on its own without the need for medical treatment in six months to a year, although it may take longer to resolve in children. However, picking at the warts can cause the virus to spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, this can lead to scarring. The Mayo Clinic advises that all adults be treated for molluscum contagiosum.
Treatments for Molluscum Contagiosum
There are a number of medical procedures and treatments for molluscum contagiosum. An in-office procedure may consist of removing the growths through scraping or curettage, cryotherapy or laser therapy. There are also topical applications such as imiquimod that can dissolve growths. Even though existing mollusca are removed, new growths can appear if the virus has spread to other parts of the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends addressing mollusca while they are still few in number to get optimal benefit from medical treatment.