Molluscum Contagiosum (MMC) is a skin infection from a virus that causes benign raised bumps on the upper layers of the skin. The bumps are painless and disappear on their own. However, they can take as long as four years to disappear! Molluscum are spread by direct contact with the lesion of an infected person or by contact with a contaminated object such as towels, shared sports equipment, wrestling mats.
There is some controversy regarding treatment vs. no treatment of MMC. Some physicians say allow the infection to clear with time. The reasoning is that it will eventually go away by itself and does a person no harm other than some dermatitis in the area. In addition, the treatment involves some discomfort and multiple visits. Those who advocate treating MMC say that 18 months or more of disfiguring and embarrassing bumps is too long to wait. Plus, the lesions can become infected and tender, and can lead to abscess formation. Anybody with a lowered immune system can get very large lesions or lesions numbering in the hundreds. Children with atopic dermatitis can also be plagued with numerous lesions as well as a worsening of their dermatitis and risk of infection and scarring. For children, who generally have a lot of skin-to-skin contact, they can spread them easily to their playmates and siblings.
In adults, MMC is considered a sexually transmitted disease, and appears in areas of close skin contact during sex. Again, although not dangerous to health, most adults choose to treat the lesions because of cosmetic and social concerns. Athletes, especially wrestlers, may be required to treat MMC because it is a transmissible viral infection.
Children between 1 and 10 years old are the most frequently affected. After being exposed to the virus, it may take as long as six months for symptoms to appear, so it may be hard to know exactly where it was picked up. However, the average incubation period is between two and seven weeks. You may notice a small group of painless, small, shiny, rounded bumps. Some may have a dent in the middle or have a central core of waxy material.
If you decide to treat MMC lesions, your dermatologist has a variety of treatments. The lesions can be destroyed individually using a blistering agent or liquid nitrogen freezing. They can also be scraped off the skin; although a little painful, this option is sometimes chosen by athletes who want to qualify immediately to compete. The CDC warns against self-treatment of molluscum without the advice of a healthcare provider. Treatments available from online sources may not work. They can even harm, rather than help your condition.
How to Prevent the Spread of Molluscum Contagiosum
Avoid touching the skin of a person who has the infection
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
Avoid sharing personal items such as soaps or towels, as well as shared sports equipment that may have been in contact with the bare skin of teammates
Avoid picking at or touching areas of your skin where you have the bumps
Clean the infected skin regularly and cover it to prevent yourself and others from touching and spreading the virus
Avoid shaving or using electrolysis in areas where the bumps are present
Avoid sexual contact if you have bumps in the genital area
Once the lesions fade, the Molluscum virus is no longer present, and you can no longer spread the virus to other people or other parts of your body. Unfortunately, unlike chicken pox, you are not protected against getting a new infection. If you encounter the virus again you can get the lesions again!
At Advanced Dermatology Care, our dermatologists Dr. Kenneth Egan, Dr. Rebecca Hall and PA, Melissa Raue specialize in all of your family's skin care needs in general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology including molluscum contagiosum impetigo, acne, skin cancer, eczema, warts, moles, fungal nail infections, rashes and scars. Our offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, Norwalk and Ridgefield.
- Melissa Raue, PA-C