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What is Molluscum Contagiosum and it’s treatment

Molluscum Contagiosum (MC) is a very common viral infection. It can cause small, red bumps on the skin (Mollusca) which are sometimes called ‘water warts.’ Many people can be affected in their lifetime, and MC can be contracted at any age. While the virus is harmless and its effects are somewhat temporary, Molluscum Contagiosum can cause discomfort and irritation, and is highly contagious. Luckily, MC is also easy to manage.

What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum, simply known as molluscum, is a skin infection in which small pearly-white or slightly pink bumps develop on the skin. The molluscum warts generally develop on parts of skin such as the face, arms, hands, and neck, but they never appear on palms and souls. Usually, molluscum lumps develop in groups and each lump is round, firm and about 1-5 mm in diameter. A tiny dimple develops on top of each lump and if you squeeze it, a white cheesy fluid comes out.

Symptoms Of Molluscum Contagiosum

It usually starts with small lesions or bumps that appear in a cluster. Since the incubation period is high, you may not notice symptoms for up to 6 months in most cases. The bumps or lesions show the following characteristics:

  • Pink, white or skin coloured
  • Shiny, smooth appearance
  • Dome shaped, firm and have a depression or dent in the centre
  • Size can range from 2mm – 5mm in diameter
  • In severe cases, the size can be as big as 15mm
  • Commonly observed on legs, arms, torso and face
  • In adults, they can develop on inner thighs and genitals

What Causes Molluscum Contagiosum?

MC is a harmless yet contagious condition. It can easily be contracted upon contact with the skin of an infected person. Those living in tropical climates and with a weakened immune system are more prone to the condition.

Molluscum Contagiosum in adults:

When adults contract MC, it’s usually through close skin contact or sexual contact; it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, however, so there’s no need to worry about it like that. In adults, molluscum is usually seen around the lower abdomen, genitalia, and groin. If MC is passed through sexual contact, the first signs start appearing in the lower abdominal area and may then progress to the other parts of the body. (Read: Types of skin infections, their causes and natural solutions)

Molluscum Contagiosum Diagnosis:

Molluscum Contagiosum can be easily diagnosed by any doctor or medical professional. Mollusca is harmless and easy to recognise. They resemble warts, and often have a pitted centre. They also tend to have a red colour and are elevated from the skin. They can also grow larger and even change shape over time.

Your doctor can diagnose the infection simply by physical examination of the lumps. In case they aren’t sure, an excisional biopsy can be done in which the doctor may take skin scrapings from the infected area and examine them under a microscope. In case of bumps in the genital area, your doctor might want to additionally check for other sexually transmitted diseases.

Molluscum Contagiosum treatments:

The MC virus is harmless, and Mollusca will naturally disappear over a long period of time. It isn't necessary to treat Mollusca, however, it can take years for the unsightly rash and Molluscum Contagiosum to clear up which can be a nuisance for many. Fortunately, there are ways to treat and remove Mollusca without waiting for nature to take its course.

In most cases the infection heals completely without treatment within 6 to 12 months. Only those with weak immunity may take longer to heal. However, as the virus can easily and rapidly spread to other parts of the body, treatment is often recommended as you may finally get rid of one, just to find another! Here are some popular solutions for Molluscum Contagiosum:

Topical treatments:

Many creams and lotions are available for treating the lumps. Topical 5% potassium hydroxide, podophyllotoxin, benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin are some commonly used topical treatments that are either available on prescription or over-the-counter from pharmacies. Most of these ointments must be applied 2 or 3 times every day for the lumps to begin to heal in a few weeks. For larger lumps, you can consider creams that help in stimulating the immune system into attacking the virus. All these creams, however, may cause hardening and swelling of the skin. You can even experience itching sensation after their application.

Those, who don’t want to use a chemical treatment, can opt for natural solutions or remedies that have no known side effects and can offer painless support to help shrink lumps.

Surgical procedures:

Cryotherapy is a surgical procedure involving freezing the lumps with liquid nitrogen. A qualified healthcare professional freezes each lump for 5-10 seconds so that a layer of ice forms over the spot and surrounding skin. The therapy usually takes 3 to 4 sessions for complete removal of lumps. It’s not only expensive, but it can take a lot of time as well because there’s a gap of 2 to 3 weeks between each session.

Diathermy, in which heat is used to burn the lumps, can be used for removing the Mollusca growth. Curettage is a method in which spots are removed by scraping them off with a thin metal instrument called a curette. Pulsed-dye laser treatment uses a beam of light to destroy the cells of the lump. It only takes 1 or 2 sessions to clear all spots. The scar left behind by the laser usually heals within a week or 2.

Surgical procedures like Diathermy pose the risk of causing skin damage and scarring. There are more gentle and natural ways to handle Molluscum Contagiosum, which can be used safely at homes such as herbal or all-natural creams or lotions.

Tips To Prevent Mollusca

  • If you have mollusca, always wash your hands regularly.
  • Try not to scratch Mollusca rashes, and keep your nails short.
  • Don’t share towels, hairbrushes, blankets or clothing.
  • Avoiding sports like wrestling, rugby or judo will prevent you from contracting the infection.
  • Don’t shave the infected area as this can aggravate the condition.

The Final Word

Whilst Molluscum Contagiosum isn’t a serious condition and may disappear within a few years, you must take all the measures to prevent its spread to others as the bumps can leave unsightly scars. Natural solutions have no known unwanted side effects and are a better option to handle skin conditions. Using natural topical creams can help provide relief from Molluscum Contagiosum and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

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