Molluscum Contagiosum – To Treat or Not to Treat

In spite of its ominous sounding name, the viral infection known as Molluscum Contagiosum is benign and eventually self-resolving. If it isn’t bothering the patient, not spreading rapidly, or growing big and juicy, we can usually just watch and see how it progresses. While treatment can minimize the impact of this condition, particularly in children, there can also be some benefit to allowing the immune system to attack, resolve, and then protect against future outbreaks. Here’s why:

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin caused by a poxvirus (molluscum contagiosum virus). The infection presents as lesions called Mollusca that may appear anywhere on the body. Although not limited to children, it is most common in children 1 to 10 years of age.

Mollusca, are usually small, raised, and often have a pearly white, pink or red appearance. They generally range from about the size of a pinhead to as large as a pencil eraser (2 to 5 millimeters in diameter).

We see a good deal of Molluscum Contagiosum year round in our practice because the virus thrives in warm, moist environments, and it spreads relatively easily from direct person-to-person physical contact and through shared objects that can become contaminated with the virus such as clothing and towels, toys, gym mats, and pool equipment. Also, molluscum can spread to other parts of the body by touching or scratching a lesion.

Mollusca can become itchy, sore, red and/or swollen. Every parent knows that an itchy kid is a miserable kid, and an itchy kid is also going to scratch – regardless of how many times they are told not to. Once the scratching begins, the risk of infection (and scarring), spreading to other parts of the body, and transmission to others increase substantially. This is precisely why you want to treat it quickly.

“An itchy kid is a miserable kid!” CLICK TO TWEET

Effective Treatments for Molluscum Contagiosum

At DermPartners, we usually treat the molluscum with a blistering agent that is applied sparingly to each bump. This treatment does not hurt and doesn’t scar. We’re able to treat multiple lesions in a single visit. Complete resolution usually requires a total of three or four treatments – each about 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Please be aware that many treatments available through the internet may not be effective and may even be harmful. Also, it is NEVER a good idea to try and remove lesions or squeeze the bumps even though they may look like pimples. Manipulating the viral warts increases the risk of scarring and of spreading the virus to other parts of the body.

Remember that the virus lives only in the skin and once the lesions are gone, the virus is gone, so from that point, you cannot spread it. While recovery from one molluscum infection does not guarantee against future infections, usually once the immune system recognizes the virus and fights it off you don’t get this again.

Another potential benefit to deciding to treat is that in addition to destroying the bumps, the agent we use also causes some irritation. This signals the immune system to start recognizing this otherwise harmless virus that it had been ignoring.

Prevention

There are ways to prevent the spread of molluscum contagiosum.
• Hand washing removes germs that may have been picked up from other people or from surfaces that have germs on them.
• Don’t scratch or pick at molluscum lesions
• Keep the affected skin clean and dry.
• Do not share towels, clothing, or other personal items.
• People with molluscum should not take part in contact sports like wrestling, basketball, and football unless all lesions can be covered by clothing or bandages.
• Activities that use shared gear like helmets, baseball gloves and balls should be avoided
• Swimming items such as towels, goggles, and swimsuits should not be shared.
• Don’t share personal items such as unwashed clothes, hair brushes, wrist watches, and bar soap with others.

If you or a member of your family need help with a Molluscum infection or other skin condition, call our office or visit our online appointment page .

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