Molluscum contagiosum is a common contagious viral skin infection that chiefly occurs due to the microbe that goes by the same name i.e., Molluscum contagiosum. It is usually characterized by benign round, firm, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser on the upper layer of the skin. As per the name, these bumps are contagious in nature and can spread to other parts of the body when touched or pricked. It can even spread through person-to-person contact or contact with infected objects.
Although it is commonly witnessed in children, adults too can get infected due to the virus, especially those with an already compromised immune system. In the case of adults with an otherwise normal immune system, molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is mainly considered as a sexually transmitted infection. The lesions often disappear on its own even if it is left untreated but the length of invasion of the virus varies for each person, and the bumps can remain from two months to four years.
This highly contagious viral infection can occur by just touching or coming in contact with the skin of an already infected person. While children can just get the infection or transmit it to others during normal play with other children, and teens. Adults more likely contract it by sexual contact. One can also become infected during contact sports that involve touching bare skin, such as wrestling, rugby or football. Although there are no proofs whether the infection gets transmitted while using common chlorinated water as in the case of swimming pools but swimmers often get infected or transmit the infection by sharing towels, equipment or coming in direct skin contact to an infected person.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of getting this infection include:
Age: Children between the ages of 1 and 10 are prone to getting infected with Molluscum contagiosum.
Climate: People living in tropical climates are more at risk of getting this viral infection.
Immunity: People with weakened immune systems due to organ transplants or cancer treatments are at an aggravated risk of this infection.
Skin Conditions: People who are diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, have higher risk of developing Molluscum contagiosum as well.
Sport Activities: People who participate or are involved in contact sports, such as wrestling, rugby or football are more to getting infected with Molluscum contagiosum.
The initial signs may take up to 6 months to develop once an individual comes in contact with the virus. The average incubation period is usually between two and seven weeks. It is chiefly characterized by painless lesions or bumps which are:
- Very small, shiny, and smooth in appearance
- Flesh-colored, white, or pink
- Firm, raised and shaped like a dome with a dent or dimple in the middle
- Filled with a central core of waxy material
- Can become red or inflamed
- Can cause itching sensation
- Size varies between 2 to 5 millimeters in diameter
- May be visualized on the genitals, face, torso, arms, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs in adults if the infection was sexually transmitted
Without proper treatment the lesion can often become red, itchy and inflamed. If scratched or touched, it can easily spread to other parts of the body. If lesions develop on eyelids, it can develop into pink eye (conjunctivitis).
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing the above mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor at the earliest to avoid unnecessary complications. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, acknowledges other skin conditions etc. The doctor may perform a biopsy by scraping a small portion of the skin.
Although, it may disappear on its own but it can take from 6 –12 months. Since the infection is contagious, medical interventions may be required especially for adults. The doctor may use a combination of treatments including
- Anesthetic to lessen the discomfort
- Freezing (cryotherapy)
- Laser therapy
- Topical medications that cause peeling of the skin to remove the bumps