What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus called MCV. Viruses can be thought of as occurring in families. Just like a sister and brother are more similar to each other than a boy and girl from two different families, viruses in the same family share similar properties and behavior. Molluscum is a member of the pox family of viruses. This family includes cow pox virus in cows, and the human small pox virus. But don’t worry! Molluscum is harmless, just unsightly. This viral skin infection causes highly contagious, raised papules on the skin. Papule is the medical term for a small bump. Molluscum is a common infection in the United States, occurs worldwide and equally between male and female genders, and by some estimates accounts for approximately 1% of all diagnoses of skin disorders in the US.
Pox viruses are notorious for their ability to evade the host’s immune system by both active and passive mechanisms, and this helps explain why molluscum can persist so long, sometimes years.
How Do You Contract It?
Molluscum is common in children. In fact, it’s probably the most common unheard of skin condition around! If your child has molluscum you become an overnight expert; if you child never gets it, you probably will never hear of it. MC occurs when a child comes into contact with the virus directly. It is not transmitted in an airborne fashion like a cold or the flu. Usually it is contracted by contact with the skin of another infected child, who may not yet show any of the characteristic bumps. You can also get molluscum through contact with a wet surface infected with the virus such as wet poolside furniture, toys recently handled, or even a recently used towel. The most frequent sites of infection are the abdomen, arms, and legs but it is also commonly seen on the face, armpits, and hands. In fact it can spread to any part of the body except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and scalp.
Persons with a weakened immune system (due to conditions such as AIDS) may have a rapidly worse case of molluscum contagiosum that is very resistant to treatment and persists.
What Are The Symptoms?
Typically, the molluscum bump, or lesion as it may be called by your doctor, begins as a small, painless bump. It can enlarge, sometimes rapidly and may become raised up to a pearly, flesh-colored nodule. A characteristic dimple can develop in the center, but not always. Scratching spreads the virus, a process called auto-inoculation. This can result in the lesions being in lines, but more commonly they occur in patches called crops. The virus is in the skin in areas even where there are no visible bumps so new crops can appear over time even after treatment of the original bumps. The lesions may develop a central core or plug of white, waxy material. This plug contains lots of virus particles.
Adults may have MC typically on the inner thighs, lower abdomen and genitalia.
What Are The Treatment Alternatives?
A physician may recommend treatment for molluscum contagiosum based on several considerations–age, medical history, extent and location of the outbreak, and expected outcome of the condition. If the lesions are out of sight, the preference may be to just let the molluscum virus run its course. However, this can take months, or even years. It is a highly infectious disease that can spread from region to region on your own body (called auto-inoculation) or spread to others.
Previously treatments have ranged from surgical removal by scraping, de-coring, freezing, or through needle electrosurgery. Surgical removal of individual lesions may result in scarring. Medications, such as those used to remove warts, are sometimes used to remove the lesions, but can cause painful blistering. In addition, this can lead to skin discoloration.
Since 2003 when it was introduced, many physicians and customers have used ZymaDerm™ which is a powerful, yet gentle, ant-viral topical solution. It is applied directly to the bumps and can be used on the face and private areas safely. It is a natural, non-toxic topical liquid that has been clinically tested and is FDA approved as a homeopathic drug.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on the appearance of the lesion and can be confirmed by a skin biopsy. The health care provider should examine the lesion to rule out other disorders and to determine other underlying disorders.
What Is The Prognosis?
Molluscum contagiosum lesions may persist from a few months to a few years, with an average of 18-30 months in children. The lesions may ultimately disappear without scarring, unless there is excessive scratching, which may leave marks.
How Do I Prevent Contracting It?
Avoid touching the skin lesions directly. This is more important for children than adults as transmission from child to adult is not common. Also, avoid toy sharing amongst children if a child is known to have molluscum, use separate towels, and do not bath children of the same household together if one child has molluscum.
Are There Complications?
• The biggest complication is persistence and spread. Once immunity is acquired, the disease does not recur.
• Secondary bacterial skin infections may also occur if there has been a lot of inflammation or especially, scratching.