Medical Dermatology - Molluscum Contagiosum
A common skin disease, molluscum contagiosum is caused by a poxvirus that infects only the skin. This virus enters the skin through small breaks in the skin barrier. After an incubation period, growths appear. These growths can develop anywhere on the skin. Like warts, which are caused by a different virus, molluscum contagiosum is considered benign. Molluscum contagiosum does not affect any internal organs and rarely causes symptoms. As the name implies, molluscum contagiosum is contagious.
While molluscum contagiosum will eventually go away on its own without leaving a scar, many dermatologists advise treating. Treatment can prevent the growths from spreading to other areas of a patient’s body and to other people. Before treatment begins, a dermatologist may confirm that the growths are mollusca by scraping an area of infected skin and looking at the cells under a microscope. If molluscum contagiosum is present, there are a number of treatment options.
Treatment for mollusca is similar to that for warts. Growths can be frozen with liquid nitrogen, destroyed with various acids or blistering solutions, or treated with an electric needle (electrocautery) and scraped off with a sharp instrument (curette). Laser therapy also has been effective in treating mollusca. All of these treatments can be performed in a dermatologist’s office. If there are many growths, treatment sessions may be needed every 3 to 6 weeks until the growths disappear. Some discomfort is associated with these treatments.