What is molluscum contagiosum?

This disease tends to be harmless, but causes bumps on the skin, caused by a virus which easily spreads. Skin contact or using shared objects spread the virus. Visible bumps means the virus is contagious. 10 to 20 bumps usually appear in patients without compromised immune systems.


What are the symptoms?

Sometimes the bumps are the only sign, which are pink or flesh colored. The bumps appear after about a month and a half. Sometimes they take longer to appear. They begin as small, firm bumps and feel smooth and hard, and may have a sebum like substance in them. They are painless, but sometimes itch. It is possible to spread them from any kind of touch, including sexual contact. Many large bumps can be a sign of an HIV infection or compromised immune system.

What causes it?

Most often seen in children, people in a tropical climate are more likely to contract it, as the virus thrives in warm, humid environments. You can get the virus through direct contact, or through a shared object, or sexual contact. Picking and scratching can spread it to other parts of the body, sometimes called self reinfection.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The bumps are sometimes called mollusca, and can look like skin cancer, chickenpox, or warts–your dermatologist at Dermatology of Seattle may scrape some of the infected skin off for a biopsy. Treatment is important, because it can prevent spreading of the virus, or it getting out of control in those with compromised immunity. Treatment can result in side effects for children. Treatments include cryosurgery, curettage, laser surgery, or a topical treatment, such as tricholoracetic acid to destroy the bumps. The treatment may need to be repeated, and can cause some discomfort. Imiquimod can also be prescribed, and it is applied to the bumps to boost your immune system. Retinoid or antiviral medicine may be used. Molluscum contagiosum will go away on its own, but remains contagious all the bumps are gone. Complete clearing may not happen in individuals with compromised immunity.