Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin disease. It is a viral infection that easily spreads from person to person.
What is Molluscum?
Molluscum is a viral infection of the skin. In this infection, there are small bumps on skin. These appear as small, firm, dome shaped growths with waxy and smooth surface. These are pink or flesh colored. These usually have a dimple in centre that is filled with thick white cheesy substance. These bumps are painless but sometimes they may be itchy. These often appear on the face, neck, armpits, arm, hands, genitals, abdomen, and inner thighs. In case of weaker immune system (as in AIDS or undergoing cancer chemotherapy), the disease appears more serious, and there can be hundreds of such bumps.
How does molluscum infection occur?
This infection is more commonly seen in children.
People living in tropical climate more often get it, as this virus supposedly thrives in hot humid places.
Skin allergies and weak immune system (like AIDS or cancer chemotherapy) increases the risk of molluscum contagiosum infection. Such people have serious kind of infection as compared to people with strong immune system.
Does molluscum spread from person to person?
Molluscum readily spreads from person to person. Once infected with the virus, a person can spread the virus to the other parts of his body. Scratching or picking at bumps on the skin and then touching skin that does not have bumps can spread the virus and cause new bumps.
One can get infection from contaminated clothing, towels or toys. Direct skin to skin contact and sexual contact also causes spread of disease.
What is the treatment of molluscum?
The viral bumps often subside on their own. But, the duration of self-resolution of lesions is quite variable, and even take weeks to months to even years for this. But treatment has benefits, as it prevents the spread of infection to other parts of body and prevents infecting other people. Treatment is very important for people with weakened immune system as they have serious form of disease.
Best mode of therapy is physically removing the bumps along with medicines that strengthen the immune system.
In an immunocompetent person, the bumps clear on their own in few weeks to months, but until then person remains infective to himself as well as others. So removal of bumps is important to prevent spread of infection as well as control of infection to others. Several modalities used by dermatologists to treat the bumps include:
- Physical curettage of bumps by sharp needle
- Electrodesiccation: burning off the bumps with electric current
- Laser to destroy the bumps
- Application of acid or strong blistering fluids to destroy the bumps
These are outpatient procedures, done under local anaesthesia. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to do these procedures depending upon the number of lesions. Patient is free to go home as soon after the procedure.
In children or some cases unwilling to get these bumps removed in clinic, may be prescribed certain medicines that can be applied on bumps at home. These include Imiquimod, retinoids, salicylic acid or tincture iodine.
Molluscum contagiosum generally infects the people with weakened immunity. It is important to strength the immunity to control the infection and prevent the recurrence as well. Some drugs as Levamisole, Zinc salts etc are prescribed to strengthen the immune system.
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