What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection of the skin. It appears as small, pearl-shaped spots which are pink in color. It may occur at any age but is typically found in children. It is not a serious disease and usually clears up within a few months. It can, however, last for up to two years.
How do you contract molluscum contagiosum?
It is an infection caused by a virus called poxvirus. The infection can result from direct contact, including sexual contact, or by indirect contact, such as sharing towels, or from swimming pools. The condition is easily transmitted, (very contagious) hence the term 'contagiosum" as part of it's name. The incubation period from the time of initial contact until the molluscum or spots appear is anything from two to eight weeks.
The symptoms of molluscum contagiosum
Pink, pearl-like spots on the face, arms and legs, which can be 1 to 5mm in diameter.
If the infection is sexually transmitted, the molluscum can be seen on the genitals, thighs and the lower part of the stomach.
Wash your hands after touching the molluscum.
Do not share towels used on the infected area with other people.
Avoid scratching the molluscum as this may cause further infection.
This is a benign disease that, in many cases, spontaneously improves over a short period of time. In some cases, however, if the disease persists, spreads or becomes painful and/or infected, treatment is required. In patients with a suppressed immune system the infection may become widespread.
How is molluscum contagiosum treated?
In the case where the infection does not clear spontaneously, the mainstay of treatment is irritation of the lesions. This irritation will cause the body's immune system to recognize the pox infection and attack it. Only by recruiting the body's immune system to help with healing and treatment process can the infection be cleared successfully. Irritation can consist of freezing, topical irritating agents (applied at home or in the office), or gently scraping the lesions. Because the incubation time can be up to 8 weeks, it may take 8 weeks or longer of treatment to clear the condition. Patience is an important part of treatment. Dr. Crutchfield will carefully evaluate each case and make the most appropriate treatment recommendation.
For additional helpful information on this topic Dr. Crutchfield recommends these helpful links:
American Academy of Dermatology: Molluscum Contagiosum
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If you have any questions feel free to discuss this with Dr. Crutchfield at the time of consultation.
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