Molluscum Contagiosum Warts, MCV, Molluscum, Information Website Links


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Molluscum Contagiosum

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What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
Similar to warts, it is a skin disease which affects the top layers of the skin and is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) usually causing one or more small, often itchy, pimple-like lesions/bumps. MCV is generally a benign infection and symptoms may self-resolve with a normal immune system, although compromised immune systems may have a harder time to combat the virus. MCV was once a disease primarily of children, but it has evolved to become a sexually transmitted disease in adults and is easily spread by skin contact of any kind, even non sexual. It is believed to be a member of the pox virus family and enters the skin through small breaks of hair follicles. It does not affect any internal organs.

What do molluscum look like?
Molluscum are usually small flesh-colored or pink dome-shaped growths resembling a pimple that often become itchy, red or inflamed. They may appear shiny and have a small indentation in the center. Because they can 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 the groin. They can be found anywhere on the body such as the head, face, eyelids, neck, chest, arms, legs, abdomen, groin, buttocks, and even the palms of the hands.

In people with immune system diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, the molluscum may be very large in size and number, especially on the face.

How do you get molluscum?
The molluscum virus is transmitted from the skin, (does not have to be mucous membranes), of one person who has these growths to the skin of another person through skin to skin contact, or contact with infected inanimate objects such as towels, clothing, bedding, shaving razors or other shared items that have been in contact with lesions. MCV transmission has been associated with swimming pools and sharing baths with an infected person. It occurs most often in cases where skin-to-skin contact is frequent, in young children — especially among siblings, however, transmission through sexual contact is the most common form of transmission for adults. If growths are present in the genital area, molluscum can be sexually transmitted. MCV also may be transmitted by autoinoculation, such as touching a lesion and touching another part of the body. You can also auto-infect yourself with clothing, pillow cases, towels, caps or hats, razors and other things that come in contact with the lesions. In other words, the virus survives outside the body on inanimate objects!

What is the Incubation Period for Molluscum Contagiosum?
The incubation period averages 2 to 3 months and may range from 1 week to 6 months. Lesions can last from 2 weeks to 4 years and more -- the average is 2 years, for a healthy person, but longer if you have immunity problems such as HIV/AIDS. (I've had mine now for over 7 years!)

Who is most at risk to get molluscum?
People exposed to the molluscum virus through skin-to-skin contact have an increased risk of developing these growths, and especially at risk are those with compromised immune systems such as HIV/AIDS. It is common in young children who have not yet developed immunity to the virus. Molluscum also seems to be more common in tropical climates where warmth and humidity favor the growth of the virus.

How is Molluscum Contagiosum Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually made by the characteristic appearance of the lesion. To confirm the diagnosis of molluscum, a dermatologist might scrape some cells from the growth, placing it onto a slide and staining with a Gram stain which shows changes in infected cells under an electron microscope.

Does molluscum contagiosum need to be treated?
Many dermatologists advise treating molluscum because the growths are easily spread from one area of the skin to another. Some growths may appear as others are going away. However, molluscum will eventually go away on it’s own in most cases without treatment and usually doesn't leave scars. It may take from 6 months up to 5 years for all of the molluscum to go away. They may be more persistent in people with a weakened immune system, and can last indefinitely. Strengthening the immune system can help fight the virus and treatment is highly recommended.

How do dermatologists treat molluscum?
Most symptoms are self-resolving, but generally lesions are removed. Removal of lesions reduces autoinoculation and transmission to others. Molluscum are treated in similar ways that warts are treated. They can be frozen with liquid nitrogen and/or destroyed with various acids or blistering solutions, (such as podophyllin, cantharidin, phenol, silver nitrate, trichloracetic acid or iodine), treated with an electric needle (called electrocautery), scraped off with a sharp instrument (called curette), treated daily with a home application of a topical retinoid cream or gel, (such as Retin-A), a topical immune modifier, or other topical antiviral medications. Laser therapy has also been found to be effective in treating molluscum. Some discomfort is associated with freezing, scraping, using the electric needle, and laser therapy. If there are many growths, multiple treatment sessions may be needed every 3 to 6 weeks until the growths are gone. An option, especially with young children, is not to treat molluscum and wait for the growths to go away. Lesions may recur, but it is not clear whether this is due to reinfection, exacerbation of sub clinical infection, or reactivation of latent infection.

What if the molluscum comes 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.

How can I keep from getting Molluscum Contagiosum?
Because transmission through sexual contact is the most common form of transmission for adults, preventing skin-to-skin contact with an infected partner will be most effective in preventing MCV. To lessen contact from another person, avoid using infected clothing, towels, razors, sheets and pillow cases. If you already have it and want to lessen the auto infection, you should use a towel only once, change clothing and bedding daily, and wash with bleach if possible between uses, use disposable razors or disinfect your razor in 50% bleach and 50% water solution for at least 15 mins. before use, avoid caps or hats and any other infected material.

What about Complications from Molluscum Contagiosum?
In people with HIV infection, molluscum contagiosum is often a progressive disease.

Is there any research going on about molluscum?
New drugs are being developed to treat viral infections. The molluscum infection has improved in some patients with AIDS who were taking certain antiviral drugs. If new and effective antiviral drugs can be developed in a topical form, perhaps they may be of benefit in the treatment of molluscum in the future.

If you found this information useful or have found more information about molluscum that isn't listed here, please let me know.

I'm no doctor, but I discovered a way to keep molluscum at bay with bleach. The tips offered above regarding washing sheets and pillow cases in bleach are my own ideas. I have been putting a cup of bleach in the bathtub water and laying in the water first on my back with the back of my head under water. Then I roll over and hold my breath and dip my face in the water several times. If I can't take a bath, I fill the sink with water and a half cup bleach and I use a sponge to sponge it on my face, neck, head, chest, etc.

After the bleach soaking, you must wash your face and hair with soap and clean water. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry off with clean towel. I usually shower off as usual after the bath/soaking.

This has helped me tremendously. I am not cured though. I have a small dog and he sleeps with me and I have passed the warts on to him and when in bed I scratch him and get re-infected. So it is an endless cycle. I am curious to know if one can be cured of this. The information above says they usually go away after two years but I have had mine now for at least 7 years. If the bleaching works for you please let me know.

I have told both my HIV doctor and my dermatologist about my bleaching efforts and they are amazed by the results!

So I would like to know about your experience with molluscum, please write and tell me what you do to deal with them and how it works for you.

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