What are molluscum & how is it treated?

What are molluscum? 

Molluscum is a viral infection caused by a poxvirus (not the same as chicken pox!). It is very common in toddlers and school aged children. They usually present as smooth, small pink or skin colored bumps, sometimes with an indentation in the center. Molluscum usually are painless, but sometimes can become itchy, especially if they become inflamed. They can occur on any location on the body including face, genitals, trunk and extremities, but usually spare the palms and soles. 

How is it transmitted?

The virus spreads via direct skin to skin contact or through contaminated surfaces such as gym mats.  The virus that causes molluscum can also spread on other areas of a person’s body by touching or scratching a lesion then touching somewhere else on their body.

How we can prevent transmission?

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Avoid sharing towels and bathing with siblings
  • Discourage scratching or touching lesions
  • Avoid direct skin to skin contact with an infected area
  • If around other children, should keep lesions covered with bandage or clothing to prevent transmission

How are they treated?

Molluscum can last for months to years without treatment. Even with treatment, molluscum can last over a year.  We usually recommend treatment to avoid spread to other areas, however if not bothersome, watchful waiting is also an option.

  • Physical removal: with curette or liquid nitrogen which is usually reserved for older children or adolescents
  • At home topical treatments: aim to irritate the skin to illicit an immune response for the body to fight the virus. Retin-A is a prescription that would be applied nightly to lesion. Zymaderm is a homeopathic remedy that is over the counter, which is applied twice daily.
  • In office topical treatment: Cantharidin (“Beetle juice”) application is a painless destructive procedure which involves applying Cantharidin on each lesion and then washing off after a specified time. Cantharidin causes inflammation, redness and usually causes formation of a blister with the goal of resolution of molluscum as the blister heals.

If new onset molluscum, we recommend you visit your local dermatologist to discuss treatment options.

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