Molloscum Contagiosum Definition and Information

Molluscum Contagiosum Is a Small Benign Skin Growth

Molluscum contagiosum (MC)
Molluscum contagiosum (MC). Jodi Jacobson/ GettyImages

What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

A big name for a small skin growth. Although not dangerous--it's benign or not malignant--this skin condition might not be much fun to look at. Molluscum contagiosum is a painless, whitish, firm, small button like growth that can occur on the genitalia, buttocks, face and trunk. It is most common in children but it can affect any age group.

What Causes Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus of the poxvirus family.

The bumps usually last for a few months but sometimes linger up to two years before spontaneously disappearing.

How Do You Get Molluscum Contagiosum?

This skin condition can be passed on by skin to skin or close contact, shared towels, clothes, shaving equipment, from swimming pools and by scratching the affected area etc. This skin condition can be sexually transmitted and will appear in the genital and anal area. Avoid infection by practicing safer sex or abstaining from sexual contact altogether until the outbreak has been treated or has cleared up.

How Do I Know if I Have Molluscum Contagiosum?

You need to check out this skin condition with your family doctor or dermatologist.

How Is Molluscum Contagiosum Treated?

There is no cure, but molluscum contagiosum growths will eventually go away by themselves. Specifically in most people, lesions, or growths, tend to go away at between 6 and 12 months.

Sometimes, however, it can take years for the infection to clear, which is a main reason why people get treatment.

The growths can be removed by a physician. In fact, a physician may recommend that these lesions be removed to limit their spread to other people. Remember that molluscum contagiosum is highly contagious.

A physician can treat these lesions either using cryotherapy (freezing) or surgery. Surgical removal or excision of these skin lesions can be painful thus local anesthetic is usually used to mask the pain. On follow-up examination, if any of the growths become infected, an antiseptic is used to treat the local area, with care taken not to spread the virus.

Two other ways that a physician can remove lesions secondary to molluscum contagiosum are by scraping and laser.

Two different types of medications can be used to treat molluscum contagiosum. First, topical medications that contain retinoids (like tretinoin or Retin-A) can be applied to the lesions. Second, irritating products that contain salicylic acid or potassium hydroxide can be applied to the lesions to dissolve them over time.

Can Molluscum Contagiosum Come Back?

Unlike varicella (chickenpox) virus, which never really goes away and can cause herpes zoster (shingles) years later, molluscum contagiosum virus doesn't stick around after you heal from infection.

However, if you come into contact with someone with molluscum contagiosum, you can get infected with the virus again. No immunity exists against molluscum contagiosum.

How Can I Prevent Infection With Molluscum Contagiosum?

Among adults the most common way that molluscum contagiosum is transmitted is through sexual contact. Thus, avoiding sex with a person who is infected with molluscum contagiosum is a good idea. Of note, molluscum contagiosum is considered a less severe sexually transmitted infection, yet it's a sexually transmitted infection nonetheless.

Among children, it's difficult to prevent spread of molluscum contagiosum, which is why this infection is much more prevalent among kids.

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