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Molluscum Contagiosum

Definition

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that causes smooth, waxy bumps.

What is going on in the body?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a poxvirus. It is characterized by a rash of small, flesh-colored bumps with a small depression in the center. In a person with a immunodeficiency disorder, a more severe form of molluscum contagiosum develops, with many skin lesions.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

The poxvirus that causes molluscum contagiosum is spread through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse. In addition, a person can spread the rash over his or her own body by scratching.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the infection?

The best way to prevent molluscum contagiosum is to avoid close contact with an infected person.

Diagnosed

How is the infection diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can diagnose molluscum contagiosum based on the physical appearance of the lesions. If necessary, it can be confirmed by a skin biopsy.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

If left untreated, molluscum contagiosum can lead to bacterial skin infections. A person who has AIDS tends to develop extensive lesions over the face and neck, as well as the genital area. Molluscum contagiosum is more difficult to get rid of in a person when his or her immune system is compromised.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

The poxvirus that causes molluscum contagiosum is contagious. It is spread by direct skin contact, and is often sexually transmitted.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the infection?

The skin lesions of molluscum contagiosum usually resolve on their own over time, but treatment is justified to prevent spread of the virus and rash. Molluscum contagiosum is treated by removing the core of the bump. This can be done by mechanical removal, liquid nitrogen, or compounds used for wart removal, such as salicylic acid and lactic acid.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Local removal of the core of skin lesions can cause irritation and blistering of the skin. Scarring does not occur unless removal is complicated by a bacterial infection.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the infection?

Sometimes new lesions of molluscum contagiosum can occur after treatment, since the incubation period can last as long as 6 months.

Monitor

How is the infection monitored?

A person with molluscum contagiosum should report any new symptoms to his or her healthcare professional.

Sources

Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

Hill, Marcia J. Skin Disorders: Mosby's Clinical Nursing Series, 1994

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