What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum Contagiosum is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) that primarily affects the skin. The viral infection occurs as a result of the Poxvirus, an oval-shaped entity that has been found throughout the world for hundreds of years. The Poxvirus is the foundation for many commonly known illnesses such as smallpox. Interestingly, though other genuses of the Poxvirus affect both humans and animals equally, the Molluscipoxvirus only affects humans. Though it has not been tracked officially, there has been evidence that Molluscum Contagiosum has been on the rise since 1966 within the United States.
Though Molluscum Contagiosum virus can be transmitted to even the most healthy adults, the viral infection is most commonly seen and diagnosed or screened in children and adults with immune system deficiencies. Due to the visually distinct nature of Molluscum Contagiosum, diagnosis by a professional or individual is often quick and accurate, without the need for extensive testing. After extensive testing, there are many Molluscum Contagiosum cures available, though some are more effective than others.
Although Molluscum Contagiosum has been around for hundreds of years, no single, large scale investigation has ever been conducted of the infection in the United States. This is likely due to the lack of serious repercussions or harmful lasting impact on individuals despite experiencing various outbreaks throughout the years.
Though there has been no official countrywide study, there was a comprehensive study conducted in 2005 to track the trend of Molluscum Contagiosum across the American Indian and Alaska Native population in the United States. Despite not covering the entire population, the results in this study were used as a measuring stick to extrapolate to the U.S. population at large. The official study findings were published in 2009 after scientific review in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
The Molluscum Contagiosum Virus has been found to infect both adults and children. However, the 2005 study strongly indicates that Molluscum is found more commonly in children than in adults, especially those between the ages of 1-4. That being said, adults suffering from atopic dermatitis (more commonly known as eczema), or infected with HIV, may be especially prone to contracting Molluscum Contagiosum due to the compromised skin immunity.
This study has shown that men and women are equally likely to catch the viral skin infection. Yet a factor that could influence an individual’s likeliness to be infected with Molluscum Contagiosum is his/her area of residence. The western United States, especially states such as California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are the most likely of the 50 states to report Molluscum-related doctor visits. Meanwhile, the southern plains states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are least likely to be infected.
The transmission of Molluscum Contagiosum Virus requires direct contact with an infected person or object. Spreading could occur during skin-to-skin contact such as wrestling, handshakes, hugs, or sexual contact. Sexually transmitted infection is the primary cause of infection in adults, though non-sexual contact can also occasionally affect adults as well.
However, equally powerful are infected objects known as contaminated fomites. Contaminated fomites can take the form of towels, clothing, wash cloths, sponges, or toys. There appears to be a strong connection between fomites and warm, wet conditions. Objects that retain moisture or are found in damp conditions such as pools, laundry rooms, and bathrooms, are more likely to become fomites.
Due to the dermal nature of Molluscum Contagiosum, the virus cannot be spread via bodily fluids such as coughing or saliva. Yet, an infected person may spread Molluscum to another part of his/her body by scratching or repeatedly rubbing the infected area followed by the touching of an uninfected area. Though it has been proven that the infection can be spread across a single body through simple contact, there are conflicting reports whether spreading from body to body requires only simple touching or direct contact with a broken/exposed lesion is necessary to facilitate transmission.
Molluscum Contagiosum is a unique viral infection due to its lack of harmful or painful symptoms. There is generally only one symptom associated with Molluscum Contagiosum: small, flesh- or pink-colored bumps along the skin. These lesions are usually painless unless infecting an adult with compromised dermal immunity. For those with eczema, the bumps may become red, inflamed, and associated with some pain. Regarding healthy adults and children, the bumps may result in itching and slight discomfort.
The bumps often start at the area of infection. Depending on where initial contact with an infected person was made, the bumps may first appear on the face, arms, legs, stomach, or genital area. As mentioned above, it is especially important to resist itching the infected area as contact can initiate further spreading to other places on the body. Lesions may also become inflamed or break open with consistent contact.
Though the Molluscum Contagiosum Virus can infect the genital area like an STI, it does not lay dormant in the human body like Herpes. Bumps usually appear within 2-7 weeks after first contact with an infected person or contaminated fomite. In some rarer cases, bumps may not appear until 6 months after infection.
Treatments for the Molluscum Contagiosum Virus
Due to the nature of Molluscum Contagiosum, the skin virus typically resolves itself. Once the lesions are gone, the molluscum contagiosum virus is also gone; it cannot remain dormant to reappear later. For those wondering how to get rid of Molluscum Contagiosum, treatments are available. Due to the itch and discomfort of the bumps and likelihood it spreading, treatment is recommended for more efficient Molluscum Contagiosum removal. Without treatment, the lesions typically last anywhere from 6-9 months but, in some cases, can persist for over two years. In uncommon cases or cases with immune-deficient adults, bumps can persist for years.
Molluscum Contagiosum can be diagnosed by a doctor, typically by sight and physical exam. In some cases, doctors may require a skin biopsy to confirm. Doctors can ensure the symptoms are Molluscum Contagiosum and not signs of underlying disease. It is recommended to see a doctor if patients have previously had other skin conditions such as eczema or are HIV positive. If uncertain about bumps found in the genital area, doctors can check for the presence of potential STIs.
However, Molluscum Contagiosum can also be screened and self-diagnosed in the majority of cases because of their distinctive look. Examine the infected area for small, smooth raised bump with a possible dimple in the middle. The bump will often be the same color as the skin or slightly pink (caused by itching and scratching). The infected area can have a single bump or multiple in a concentrated area of the body. Those suffering from Molluscum Contagiosum or parents of infected children can use this online diagnosing tool to help them determine their condition.
Treatments vary by area infected, age, and severity, but include the following:
- Topical Treatment – topical therapy is the easiest, cheapest, and most accessible of all the treatments available to eliminate the molluscum contagiosum virus. ZymaDerm® is a physician-trusted treatment that can reduce bumps without blistering or irritating the surrounding skin. A powerful, yet gentle, antiviral topical solution, ZymaDerm® is applied directly to the bumps and can be safely used on the face and genital areas of the skin. It is a natural, non-toxic topical liquid that has been clinically tested and has been registered with the FDA as a homeopathic drug. ZymaDerm® is the Molluscum Contagiosum solution that can resolve unsightly bumps safely.
- Physical Removal – Molluscum Contagiosum removal can be achieved through cryotherapy and laser therapy. These are two removal solutions prescribed by doctors to quickly target and remove the lesions. Though the procedure itself is usually very quick, it often requires a local anesthetic and an appointment with a specialist which can delay the process. Physical removal has become a less popular solution to treating Molluscum Contagiosum due to the propensity to cause severe post-procedure pain and leave scarring on the skin.
- Oral Therapy – Less common, but still seen, is an oral prescription to treat Molluscum. However, oral medication can be difficult for small children and can take a longer period of time before seeing results. This method of Molluscum Contagiosum removal is generally not the preferred resolution.
Prevention Against the Molluscum Contagiosum Virus
The spread of Molluscum Contagiosum Virus in adults and children can be prevented. Prevention starts primarily with good, basic hygiene habits such as washing hands and bathing regularly. Washing hands immediately after touching an infected person can help defend against spreading the virus. It is especially important for those suffering from Molluscum Contagiosum to wash immediately after scratching or rubbing dermal bumps.
Be aware of contaminated fomites. This is especially likely to happen in public areas such as a pool, locker room, or gym. Stay away from damp clothing used by another person. Do not share towels, bracelets/wristwatches, swimsuits, or wash clothes with those that have been contaminated. When playing sports, sharing gear can also spread the virus. Wearing another’s helmet, gloves, pads, and balls or bats can cause the infection to spread.
For those that have been infected, swimming should be avoided until lesions have been resolved. Infected persons should desist from direct contact sports such as wrestling and football. For those with bumps around the penis, anus, or vagina, avoid direct sexual contact until fully treated.
For more information and answers regarding Molluscum Contagiosum treatment and prevention, visit Naturopathix.