What is Molluscum Contagiosum ?
It is a condition in which the skin becomes infected by a virus that causes small, flesh-colored or pinkish bumps. It commonly affects children and sexually-active adults, as well as those with compromised immunity. The condition is quite contagious and persists for weeks, months or even years. It could leave stubborn scars once healed and may reappear and spread subsequently.
More than anything else, molluscum contagiosum causes a great deal of embarrassment. That is why individuals who suffer from it take steps to address the problem instead of wait for it to resolve on its own. What’s more, treatment will prevent the bumps from spreading to other parts of the body and result in secondary infections.
Facts about the Molluscum Contagiosum Virus
MCV is the virus that causes molluscum contagiosum. It belongs to poxvirus family that causes pox diseases like small pox. MCV thrives in warm and humid environments and exclusively affects the outer layer of the skin. It enters the body through skin abrasions and immediately infects skin cells and reproduces thereafter. However, the virus does not lie dormant even after the bumps have disappeared as it is eliminated together with the bumps. Still, the body does not become immune to the virus, and so there can be recurrent outbreaks of MC.
Cause of Molluscum contagiosum
The virus responsible for the problem spreads easily and people can get it in a variety of ways, such as:
- Direct skin contact
This usually occurs when touching an infected skin, particularly among children as is common in classrooms, cafeterias and playgrounds.
- Touching contaminated objects
The virus can thrive on surfaces or objects that were used or handled by an infected person, such as toys, clothes and towels.
- Sexual contact
Sexual contact is another way to catch the MCV virus.
Those already infected can also induce the virus to spread further by rubbing or scratching the bumps and touching certain parts of the body using the same hands. It should be noted that not everyone will develop bumps because their immune systems are strong enough to fight off the virus. This is the reason why molluscum contagiosum is more common in people with compromised or weakened immune systems. This group includes:
- Children between 1 and 10 years old
- HIV patients
- Cancer patients (who are receiving chemo treatment)
- Prolonged steroid use
- People with multiple sexual partners
Incidence of Molluscum Contagiosum (statistics)
The viral infection is quite common among children. But MC also accounts for around 3% of sexually-transmitted diseases in the US and occurs more frequently in the tropics especially in crowded living conditions. Men are more frequently affected by MCV infection than women. It is believed that more people are actually affected by molluscum contagiosum but remain unreported because the condition disappears on its own over time even without treatment.
Molluscum contagiosum could be type I, II, III or IV. Type I accounts for around 97% of human infection, whereas Type II is responsible for MC infections among sexually active adults, particularly HIV patients. Types III and IV rarely occur.
Molluscum contagiosum Symptoms
Because it is contagious and could spread further to different parts of the body, it is very important to learn how to identify molluscum contagiosum bumps. Children have low tolerance for itchiness and so they rub the bumps, causing the virus to spread and for secondary infections to develop. Detecting the condition the earliest possible time is helpful in preventing the multiplication of the virus and secondary bacterial infections.
These are the distinctive features of molluscum contagiosum bumps:
The bumps appear as white, pinkish or flesh-colored with slightly indented center. They are filled with waxy pus which gives them a shiny look. They can show up anywhere on the body. In children, these bumps are usually found on the arms, armpits, chest, stomach, face and legs.
They initially look like a very tiny spot on the skin which slowly grows into a large bump in just a few weeks. The bumps could be anywhere between 2 and 5 millimeters in diameter. They could appear in singles or in clusters.
Molluscum contagiosum feels firm and smooth. The bumps are swollen and red but painless. However, they can be itchy and feel sore.
In sexually-active individuals, the bumps are quite visible on the thighs and the region surrounding the genitals. The doctor can immediately diagnose molluscum contagiosum during a physical examination.
MC usually heals on its own in a couple of months or more. However, it may recur if the patient catches the virus once again. Besides, it may take years for the bumps to completely disappear. Those affected shouldn’t wait any longer and treat the condition immediately. Some of the available treatment options for molluscum contagiosum include:
- Scraping the lesions
- Topical wart medications
Molluscum Contagiosum Pictures
Here are images of Molluscum Contagiosum on the human body