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Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common non-cancerous skin growth caused by a viral infection in the top layers of the skin. They are similar to warts, but are caused by a different virus. The name molluscum contagiosum implies that the virus and the growths are easily spread by skin contact.

What do molluscum look like?

Molluscum are usually small, flesh-colored or pink, dome-shaped growths, most commonly seen in children. They may appear shiny and have a small indentation in the center. Molluscum are often found in clusters on the skin of the chest, abdomen, arms, groin, or buttock. They can also involve the face and eyelids. Because they can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, molluscum are usually found in areas of skin that touch each other such as the folds in the arm or in the groin.

How do you get molluscum?

The molluscum virus is transmitted from the skin of one person who has these growths to the skin of another person. Molluscum occur most often in cases where skin-to-skin contact is frequent. They often occur in young children, especially among siblings. Molluscum may be spread between children in swimming pools.

Why do some people get molluscum and others don't?

People that are exposed more often to the molluscum virus through skin-to-skin contact, have an increased risk of developing these lesions. It is common in young children who have not yet developed immunity to the virus. Children tend to get molluscum more than adults. Molluscum also seems to be more common in tropical climates as warmth and humidity tend to favor the growth of the virus.

Do molluscum need to be treated?

Many dermatologists advise treating molluscum because they spread. Molluscum can become infected, irritated and become painful if not treated. Because the growths are easily spread from one area of the skin to another, some growths may appear as others are going away. It may take from six months up to five years for all of the molluscum to go away on their own, without treatment.

How do dermatologists treat molluscum?

Molluscum are treated in the same ways that warts are treated. They can be frozen with liquid nitrogen, destroyed with various acids or blistering solutions, treated with an electric needle (electrocautery), scraped off with a sharp instrument (curette), treated daily with a home application of a topical retinoid cream or gel, treated with a topical immune modifier, or treated with a topical anti-viral medication. Some discomfort is associated with freezing, scraping, and the electric needle. Often these procedures are reserved for older children and adults. If there are many growths, multiple treatment sessions may be needed every three to six weeks until the growths are gone. It is also an option, especially with young children, not to treat, and to wait for the growths to go away on their own.

What if the molluscum come back after treatment?

It is always possible for a person’s skin to get infected again with the molluscum virus. The condition may be easier to control if treatment is started when there are only a few growths. The fewer the growths, the better the chance for stopping their spread. If your child has eczema, it is essential to control eczema for molluscum to go away.