Molloscum contagiosum refers to a fairly common skin disease caused by different strains of the poxvirus. It is a benign disease as it causes no other symptoms than wart-like bumps on the skin. After a period of incubation, the bumps can occur anywhere on the body, and they usually appear in clusters. Children are more likely to get infected, and the disease will usually resolve on its own. However, medical experts are unsure if treatment is or is not necessary in the cases of molluscum contagiosum. If you want to learn more about this common skin disease, then continue reading.
What is Molluscum Contagiousm?
Molluscum contagiosum also known as water warts is a common skin disease caused by four strains of a type of virus from the poxvirus family. These viruses are classified as molluscum contagiosum virus types I to IV. Molluscum contagiosum virus type I is responsible for 96,6 % of all molluscum contagiosum infections and type II is responsible for 3,4% of all infections according to one epidemiological study. The remaining two viruses are extremely rare and account for a small fraction of infections. However, it is important to note that these viruses cause the same type of symptoms and are impossible to distinguish unless analyzed in a laboratory setting.
Those Most at Risk
The disease is highly contagious, and anyone can get infected. Interestingly, the disease is only limited to humans and is most frequently found in children. It is also more commonly found in tropical climates as the virus needs high temperatures and humidity to spread. Medical conditions that weaken the immune system make infections more likely to occur and to even lead to worse symptoms. According to Ashish C Bhatia, MD from the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University, in patients with HIV, the molluscum contagiosum type II strain causes 60% of all infections.
Disease Transmission of Molluscum Contagiousm
The disease is highly contagious, and just touching someone with the virus will result in an infection. Any type of skin to skin contact can result in the transmission of molluscum contagiosum which includes sexual activity as well. The virus is also believed to spread by touching contaminated objects such as towels. Once the infection has occurred, the virus can also spread to other parts of the body. According to Water’s Edge Dermatology, small breaks in the skin cause the virus to enter the bloodstream. After that, an incubation period of seven weeks follows, and the virus then manifests as small bumps on the skin. The virus has no effects on any internal organs whatsoever.
Symptoms and Appearance of Molluscum Contagiousm
As already mention, molluscum contagiosum causes no symptoms other than skin lesions. These lesions appear in the form of reddish or flesh-colored bumps. These bumps are small with a diameter of only 2-5 millimeters. They are also usually firm and smooth with a central indent or whitish middle part. Molluscum contagiosum are mostly found on body parts where skin-to-skin contact is most likely to happen. The number of outbreaks is usually small about 10-20 bumps but can be much greater in people with a compromised immune system.
Treatment of Molluscum Contagiousm
A study published in Pediatric Dermatology found that molluscum contagiosum completely resolved within a period of one year in 45.6% of treated and 48.4% of untreated children. This implies that treatment may be as effective as no treatment in the case of molluscum contagiosum. Medical practitioners are divided in the debate of whether treatment is necessary for this common skin disease especially in children. While there is no doubt that the disease will resolve on its own eventually, some believe that treating genital molluscum contagiosum should be done to prevent the disease from spreading. Treatment of this skin disease is similar to wart treatments as doctors will freeze the lesions with liquid nitrogen or electric needling. Laser therapy and acid peels may also speed up recovery. Doctors will usually avoid treating children to avoid unnecessary side effects from treatments.
Prevention of Molluscum Contagiousm
According to the Centers for Disease Control* and Prevention (CDC), good hygiene is the best way to prevent spreading the disease to others and getting infected in the first place. Wash your hands frequently especially when in public. Also, avoid picking and scratching the lesions as this can make the disease spread to other body parts and other people as well. Wearing watertight bandages is another good way to prevent the disease from spreading according to CDC.
Molluscum contagiosum is a benign skin disease that is fairly common in both children and adults. If not treated, it will usually resolve on its own in healthy individuals. Other than causing unsightly bumps on the skin, the disease won’t cause other symptoms. For this reason alone, molluscum contagiosum is usually not considered to be a great cause for concern. Preventing the disease from spreading by frequently washing your hands, wearing bandages, and not picking on the bumps is a good way to keep the disease under control*.