All About Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a benign viral infection of the skin. It's not dangerous, and it can go away on its own. Learn more in this article.
All About Molluscum Contagiosum

Last update: 12 October, 2021

Molluscum contagiosum lesions are very common in children ages 2 to 5. For adults, it’s normally considered a sexually transmitted disease.

You can get it from several different things, however, since you can get it by direct contact with the lesion. Also, you can get it from an object that has had contact with it, like towels, clothes, toys, etc.

The incubation period is 2 to 7 weeks after viral exposure. It’s more common in children, sexually active adults, and people with alterations in cellular immunity.

It’s most common in the summer since it’s one of the seasons where the skin is most exposed. However, you can get it throughout the year.

Do you really know what molluscum contagiosum is?

We will explain it below.

What is molluscum contagiosum and how does it appear?

Molluscum contagiosum is a benign viral infection of the skin. It’s not dangerous and can go away on its own. It is caused by a poxvirus.

After the incubation period, lesions like papules or nodules 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter appear on the skin. They can occur anywhere on the body except the palms and soles of your feet.

They are most commonly located in the following areas:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Trunk
  • Arms and hands

This condition usually causes raised lesions with a pearly appearance and a central umbilication. Although these injuries do not cause any symptoms, they can sometimes be complicated. They may become irritated, eczematic, infected, or spread to more sensitive areas, like the genitals and eyelids.

Diagnosing molluscum contagiosum

Diagnosis of molluscum contagiosum.

This disease is mainly diagnosed by the doctor visually examining the lesions at the appointment. In fact, they’re often discovered by chance at physicals exams.

Using a dermoscopy can help doctors to better visualize the characteristic vesicles and orifices. Sometimes doctors will scrape, sample or biopsy a segment to confirm the diagnosis with a histopathological study.

Outlook

The duration of the lesions varies between a week and a year and a half. During this period, some lesions may go away on their own and new ones may develop. Also, the molluscum contagiosum virus only affects the surface of the body and never spreads beyond it.

In most cases, they heal without leaving any type of scar or mark. However, some cases have a lot of inflammation or a secondary infection.

Treatment options

If the lesions don’t bother you, you don’t need treatment. They disappear on their own in a few months or years. However, you should keep them covered to prevent the condition from spreading.

If necessary, the treatment option to choose will depend on the age of the patient and the extent of the lesions. Additionally, it depends on whether there is any other skin condition.

The most common treatments are:

  • Scraping or curettage, after applying anesthetic cream: This is a surgical procedure that consists of removing the molluscum contagiosum.
  • Cryotherapy or cooling destroys the lesions through freezing with liquid nitrogen and subsequent necrosis. It’s a fast and efficient method.
  • Pharmacological treatment or immunotherapy: These are prescription drugs that change the body’s immune response and act against the virus that caused the infection. You apply these creams for weeks or months.
  • Photodynamic therapy: A photosensitizing cream and a source of red light are applied.
  • Electrocautery or laser burns: This can be painful and often leave scars.
A stomach with molluscum contagiosum.

Recommendations to prevent contagion

Some recommendations to avoid spreading molluscum contagiosum are:

  • Avoid direct contact with skin lesions.
  • Don’t share towels or personal items with affected people.
  • Be careful during sexual intercourse: Avoid direct contact until the lesions have completely disappeared.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Take care of the skin using hygiene products that aren’t irritating.
  • Use moisturizing creams.
  • Wear clothing that covers the affected areas, or a dressing or gauze.
  • Choose to shower instead of taking a bath.
  • Avoid scratching or shaving the affected skin. This can spread the lesions to other parts of the body and cause self-inoculation.
  • Avoid shaving with a razor blade because it can also spread lesions.

Conclusion

Although the lesions aren’t dangerous to your health, they can cause serious emotional and psychological problems. Also, don’t forget that they are contagious.

Therefore, it’s essential to act quickly and with the appropriate treatment, without putting your health at risk. If you detect any abnormality on your skin, contact a dermatologist right away.

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  • Barba, R. R. (2011). Molusco Contagioso Revisión y opciones de tratamiento. Archivos Médicos de Actualización en Tracto Genital Inferior3(5), 32-35.
  • Badri, T., & Gandhi, G. R. (2019). Molluscum Contagiosum.
  • Hanson, D., & Diven, D. G. (2003). Molluscum contagiosum. Dermatology online journal9(2), 2-2.