What is Mollescum Contagiosum?
Mollescum Contagiosum is an unusual kind of skin disorder caused due to viral infection. It appears as small, firm and round bumps that can range from the size of a pinhead to an eraser. These bumps are rose or flesh-colored and are painless to touch. They are also often confused for skin warts. These gleaming bumps have a serrated center and may spread to the adjacent areas if scratched.
Mollescum is quite common in children. However, they can also appear in adults, especially those with weakened immunity. Even if the adults have a healthy immune system, they can still sometimes spread through the genitalia. Due to this, mollescum is also considered to be a sexually transmitted disease. It normally spreads through direct contact or through objects that have been contaminated. Although there are various treatments for the removal of mollescum, they can also disappear all by themselves within a span of a year.
Don’t let Mollescum Scare You.
Skin diseases can be of various types and can be attributed to various factors. Sometimes they are simply caused due to allergic reactions or environmental factors and are more or less benign. At other times, they are caused due to bacteria and viruses and tend to get rather severe if not treated on time. However, regardless of the causes or severity, they can cause quite a great deal of discomfort and may even lead to scarring. Therefore, whenever you notice anything unusual on your skin, it is best to take remedial steps as soon as possible.
Who are at Risk?
Mollescum is also known as molluscum contagiosum. As the name suggests, this is a contagious skin disease and is most likely to affect teens and kids. There are also certain other groups who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. These include:
- Athletes who are required to make close skin contacts with other athletes. For example wrestlers
- People who are constantly sharing gym equipment with other people
- Massage therapists
- Since the virus thrives in humid and warm conditions, people who are regularly using saunas and steam rooms are also at high risk for contracting molluscum contagiosum
- People suffering from a highly weakened immune system
- People suffering from chronic diseases such as HIV or those who have been subjected to long-term of use of steroids or cancer treatment
Although it can affect people of all ages, it is most common among young kids between the ages of 1 and 4. It is less common among the adults.
Causes of Mollescum
Mollescum can spread if direct contact is made with the lesion of the infected person. Due to this, it tends to spread quite rapidly among children who play together. Teens and adults are more likely to get the disease through sexual interactions. It can also spread while playing sports such as football and wrestling where the players are constantly making close encounters with one other.
The virus can survive on the surfaces that have been contaminated by the infected person for a long period of time. Hence, sharing of towels, toys, clothing and various other items with the affected person can also lead to the spreading of the disease. This is another reason why people who are constantly sharing equipment such as sports helmets, gloves, gym equipment and mats with a large number of other people are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
If the bumps start appearing on a certain area, the infection can also spread to other parts of the body through contact. This happens while shaving, scratching or even casually touching the affected area. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have mollescum bumps covering a large part of the body. People suffering from atopic dermatitis are also at a higher risk for mollescum.
Special Environments that Can Cause Mollescum
You are always at high risk of contracting mollescum, especially when exposed to certain special environments. These have been named below:
- Swimming pools
Mollescum can spread directly through the water as well as through the sharing of items such as hand and body towels, pool toys and other equipment used while swimming. In fact, studies have revealed that the chances of contracting mollescum are the highest in swimming pools. If infected, the person may get open sores over the skin that is also infected by various other germs, thereby leading to more severe conditions. Therefore, it is best recommended for people who have been infected to stay away from swimming pools till the condition gets resolved. If swimming cannot be avoided, it would be helpful to take the following preventive steps for his/her own safety and to keep the virus from spreading to other people.
- Cover up all the lesion with waterproof bandages before swimming
- Properly dispose of all the bandages that have been used during the swimming
- Not to share any item such as toys, kick boards, tubes or towels with other people.
- Schools and day centers
These are the areas where are a large number of kids come together and have close interaction. Therefore, it may not be possible to entirely control or prevent the spreading of mollescum through schools and day centers. If the symptoms of mollescum are seen on any child, the parents are to be informed, and a doctor should be contacted immediately so as to keep the condition from spreading to other people. Since there are a number of different factors that can cause infectious or non-infectious outgrowths on the skin, molluscum can be correctly diagnosed only by a professional, which is another reason why fixing an appointment with the doctor is necessary.
The open lesions should be covered using a waterproof bandage and changed whenever it gets soiled. Bandages are recommended even if the child is using diapers. This will keep the condition from spreading to other parts of the body if the child happens to scratch on the affected area. It will also prevent other students and adults from contracting the virus. If not handled with care, the affected areas can have secondary infections from bacteria. Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain proper hygiene during the treatment process. Regular medical examinations of all the students can also lead to the prevention of mollescum as well as various other contagious diseases.
Adults can get mollescum after having contracted it in the area of work. Various precautions can be taken in order to prevent the infection from spreading among the unaffected people. This includes:
- Correct hygiene practices in the work area
- Regular medical examination of the employees
- Maintenance of hygiene during camps and sport activities
- Regular disinfectations of the shared equipment, especially in gyms, schools, sports and public areas.
- If a person has been affected by mollescum, he/she should have the lesion covered with waterproof bandages at all times.
Symptoms of Mollescum
The M.contagiosum virus or the virus responsible for the mollescum infection has an incubation period of about two to seven weeks on average. Therefore, the symptoms may not appear right away. Sometimes, the symptoms are entirely absent for upto six months of contracting the virus. However, when they come out, they first appear as small lesions that are painless. These bumps usually occur in patches, with a single patch containing upto 20 bumps or open lesions. The following things distinguish the molluscum bumps from other types of skin disorders:
- These bumps are often very small. However, in some cases, they may also grow to the size of a pencil eraser
- The size may vary from 2 to 5 millimeters in diameter
- These bumps are smooth and shiny
- They may appear pink, flesh-colored or white
- They have a dome shape with a small indentation in the center
- The core is filled with a waxy substance
- They usually appear on the arms, legs, face, torso, and abdomen
- Among the adults, it can appear in the abdomen, genitals and inner thigh
While some people may not show immediate symptoms, people with weak immunity may get the symptoms right away. The symptoms are also more significant as compared to other people. In such cases, the bumps can easily grow as large as 15 mm in diameter. The bumps have a higher tendency to show up on the face and may not go away easily upon treatment.
Diagnosis of Mollescum
The bumps caused during mollescum infection often have a typical appearance. Due to this, they can be easily identified through a visual examination. Following this, a skin scraping and an excisional biopsy is done for confirmation. The bodies of these bumps lie on the epidermis, beyond the stratum basale. The cells in these have a larger size and are filled with granular eosinophilic cytoplasm in large amounts. These cells have a small nucleus towards the periphery.
Molluscum contagiosum is not a threatening condition and goes away even without treatment. However, for better safety, it is advisable to consult a doctor if any type of warts or bumps on the skin does not go away within a week or two. When confirmed as mollescum, it rules out the possibility of several other diseases such as chickenpox, warts and skin cancer that can also cause similar symptoms. Due to more specialized treatment, the recovery process is expedited.
If you already have a healthy immune system, treatment may not be necessary, and the bumps can fade away naturally even when there’s no medical intervention. It is also considered best not to opt for medications if they appear on children. This is due to a number of things as mentioned below:
- The bumps fade away on their own within a period of 12 to 18 months even without any treatment
- The mollescum bumps do not pose any limitation to the everyday activities such as sports, school, swimming, etc. The child continues to have a completely normal life
- The treatments for mollescum can be highly painful, making it torturous for the child
- The treatment can lead to a burning of the skin around the affected area
- After the bumps fade away, it can leave a permanent scar on the skin. However, scarring rarely occurs if the bumps are allowed to go away on their own
- None of the treatments are effective enough to cause a big difference in reducing the time for which the bumps last
Although medical treatments may not be required, it is important to maintain strict hygiene while the infection lasts. However, there are certain cases in which immediate medical treatment is advisable. These include:
- The lesions appear on the face and neck and hence are highly visible, affecting the general appearance of the person
- The person suffers from other underlying skin conditions, namely atopic dermatitis
- There are certain risk factors that may expedite the spreading of the virus
Some of the most effective and highly common treatments used by the doctors are as follows:
In this process, the doctors make use of liquid nitrogen in order to freeze the bumps
In this process, the doctors make use of a small sharp tool in order to make an excision on the bump and have it scraped off from the skin entirely
- Laser therapy
This is one of the most effective treatment methods and eliminates each and every bump from the skin
- Topical therapy
Topical therapy makes use of certain creams that have acids and other strong chemicals that can cause the top layer of the bumps to wear and peel off. However, this can cause a thinning and scarring of the skin in the area surrounding the bumps.
Some treatment methods tend to be very painful and therefore make use of anesthesia. All of the above methods treat one bump at a time. Due to this, the patient may have to go through more than one sitting in order to have the bumps eliminated from the skin entirely. The treatment can even extend for upto six weeks, especially if there are a large number of lesions that are quite large. The process is also elongated if new bumps keep on appearing during the treatment.
The common medications that are used during the treatment of molluscum contagiosum include:
- Condolyx, a topical podophyllotoxin cream
- Cantharidin, a substance taken from blister beetle
- Trichloroacetic acid
If people with HIV are infected with molluscum contagiosum, they are often given the prescription for anti-HIV and antiretroviral medications as these help the body in fighting the virus while also strengthening the immune system. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to use the medicines under strict supervision. It should be noted that the treatment tends to be lengthier and more difficult if the person has a very weak immune system.
Home Remedies for Mollescum
Neem has been that one favorite substance that is used for treating a large number of diseases. It is very rich in powerful antivirals and therefore tends to be highly effective for the treatment of a large number of skin ailments. It can be ingested as well as used for topical applications. When used for mollescum, it can help in the neutralization of the virus in a very effective manner. Boil some neem leaves and apply this infused water to the areas that have been affected. You may also use this water while bathing.
- Apple Cider Vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar can be directly applied to the affected areas. It is helpful because it has antiviral and antibacterial qualities. Take a cotton swab or a ball, dip this in apple cider vinegar and apply over the lesions. You can also squeeze out the excess vinegar and tape these balls to the affected areas of the skin. This helps in removing the virus much rapidly and also keeps it from spreading to other areas.
- Tea Tree Oil:
Tea tree oil can be used for treating a large number of skin diseases including the chronic ones such as psoriasis and eczema. It tends to be highly effective and also does not give rise to any of the side effects. You can directly apply the oil to the areas that have been affected. You can also use a cotton ball to dab the oil over the lesions. Repeat this 3 to 4 times each day. Tea tree oil also keeps the bumps from coming back.
- Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil has a large number of benefits. It has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. This is the reason why it is considered to be a very powerful remedy for a large number hair and skin issues. Rubbing coconut oil over the affected areas can reduce the itchiness and inflammation, thereby reducing the urge to scratch. It also fights the virus and clears up the condition in a highly effective manner.
- Oregano Oil:
Many people may only have used oregano as a spice. However, oregano oil also tends to have a large number of medicinal benefits. It is very rich in a large number of antioxidant compounds such as terpenes, thymol, carvacrol and rosmarinic acid. These compounds provide a boost to the immune system, cut down the inflammation and helps the body to fight off the virus.
Garlic is very rich in allicin content. Allicin has powerful antibacterial and antiviral compounds that help in neutralizing several different strains of virus in a very rapid manner. Simply take a clove of garlic and rub it over the affected area. You can also soak the garlic overnight and use its poultice for the same. The treatment method is very easy as well as highly effective and helps you get rid of the lesions in a very short time.
Using a cotton swab, rub alcohol over the affected area. You can also cover the skin with the swab. This will kill all the infection causing pathogens over the area. Furthermore, the alcohol can also seep into the lesions and help in the neutralizing the virus. With this method, the lesions will disappear in just a few days.
- Duct Tape:
This may be the easiest of all home remedies for mollescum bumps. Just place a small patch of duct tape over the bump. This will cut off the supply of oxygen, thereby starving the virus to death. Using such occlusions can also be helpful in preventing the bumps from spreading to other parts of the body.
It should be noted that although mollescum does not pose any serious threat to life, it can last for years if not treated properly. In due course of time, it can also infect all other people who stay in close contact with you.
Prognosis of Mollescum
Since mollescum is rather benign and limited to itself, the prognosis tends to be excellent. Among the immunocompetent individuals, the problem can resolve entirely within 18 months. However, in some cases, the bumps have also been known to lasts for a period of more than five years. The treatments are quicker and more effective in patients who have healthy immunity. Although the lesion can go away entirely, they can leave scars, thereby causing anxiety among the affected person. Recurrences are also noted in almost 35% of the total patients even if the infections have been completely cleared.
Reinfections can occur especially when it is an ongoing disease in the social circles that you are continuously involved in. In other cases, it is caused when the virus becomes active after a long period of latency. However, among the immunocompromised patients such as those suffering from HIV, the recurrences are more frequent. Studies have found a direct correlation between reduced CD4 count and increasing frequency of the infection. In some cases, such as patients who have just undergone surgery or organ transplants, the length of infection cannot be exactly determined.
Can Mollescum Cause Serious Issues?
The lumps that appear on the skin during mollescum infection are non-itchy and benign. However, when they go away, these lesions may leave a tiny mark on the skin. Furthermore, the skin over the area where the bumps had appeared may appear lighter in shade as compared to the surrounding area. Sometimes, the skin adjacent to the bumps can get affected by bacteria. Using prescribed medicines and antibiotic creams can, however, treat the condition before it gets any serious.
Mollescum bumps may feel a little uncomfortable, especially when occurring over the eyelid. If left untreated, this can also lead to eye inflammation. If treated in the right manner, the body naturally acquires immunity to the mollescum virus. Because of this recurrences become rare. Even if they do, they are less severe than in the earlier instances. However, if the bumps are very large in size and appear in large numbers, it may be an indication of a more serious health issue. While mollescum is mostly self-limiting, in cases of highly compromised immunity, it may go out of hand. Therefore, these cases call for specialized attention and treatment.
How to Avoid the Spreading of Mollescum?
It is very common for the molluscum virus to spread due to direct contact with the skin of the affected person. The affected areas remain contagious till the bumps are completely healed. Starting from the time of exposure, it can take 2 to 7 weeks for the bumps to show up and in some cases, it can even take upto 6 months.
Following the given preventive methods can help in avoiding the spreading of mollescum.
- Do not scratch the areas that have been affected.
- Apply a bandage or a tape to cover the lesions completely.
- Do not share your washcloths and towels with other people.
- Refrain from shaving if the bumps have appeared on the face.
- Stay away from sexual activities if the bumps happen to develop in and around the genitalia.
How to Prevent the Occurrence of Mollescum?
When you closely stick to the preventive measures, there is very little chance of contracting the virus. Hence, infections can be prevented by a very significant degree. Therefore, it is not necessary to bring your daily routine to a halt. Children can continue going to schools; you can keep attending your office, gym; it is not even necessary to stay away from swimming pools. Be prudent and do not share your items such as soft toys, bathwater, clothes, towels, etc., with other people. You can also avoid direct skin contact with people who have been suffering from the infection.
Using a condom while having sex is also advisable as it keeps the virus from spreading through the genitalia. Although this may not entirely protect the person from contracting the virus, it can help in preventing the infections from spreading to the surrounding areas and other parts of the body. If you already have been infected, resist the urge to touch the affected area continuously so that it does not spread to other areas. Taking caution while the infection is ongoing can help in preventing the occurrence of mollescum.
At the same time, you can also make certain changes to your lifestyle for providing a boost to the immunity. Since molluscam can easily infect an immunocompromised person, working on your immunity can help in cutting down the risk for infections. Even if you get infected, the recovery process will be much quicker and effective when you have healthy immunity.
Complications that may arise
Molluscum does not lead to any serious complications all by itself. The lumps that appear during the infection are not painful at all. You can even leave them for a long time without any treatment. However, the bumps that appear on the face, neck or other exposed areas may affect the appearance thereby leading to confidence and anxiety issues. This happens especially among the school-going children.
However, complications may arise if the infected person has also been suffering from other underlying health problems. For example, if the skin surrounding the bumps is affected by eczema, it can even lead to swelling, pain, and itchiness. Since this increases the urge to scratch, the infection can easily spread to other surrounding areas thereby turning into a more serious condition. While this can turn uncomfortable, the healing process is also slowed down considerably.
If the lesions are scratched and not dressed with care, the area can get infected by bacteria. In such cases, taking antibiotics may help in clearing off the infection. Complications may also arise in people with weakened immunity, especially the HIV patient, those who have undergone a renal transplant, cancer treatment or have been using certain specific drugs. In such cases, the scarring also tends to be more intense. If the bumps appear in and around the eyes, it can lead to complications such as keratitis and conjunctivitis. Therefore, it is a necessity to have the case assessed by an eye specialist.
On a base note, mollescum is, in no way, anything serious to complain about. The bumps generally disappear of their own accord within a period of 6 to 12 months. However, like every other skin disorder, medical supervision during the treatment can prove to be more helpful. With the possibilities of other skin diseases ruled out, you will be able to opt for a more specialized method of treatment. This will also expedite the recovery process. It is especially advisable to see a doctor if the bumps appear in large numbers and the symptoms keep on deteriorating.
It should be noted that mollescum tends to spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, if you have just one or two bumps, having it physically removed can prevent it from spreading to other areas. This will also prevent the spreading of infection among other members of the family or people you deal with on a general basis.