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Everything You Need to Know About Molluscum Contagiosum

Have you ever heard of molluscum contagiosum? Wait – what? What in the world is molluscum contagiosum? That’s the exact question I asked when I came across this very scientific-sounding condition! But I soon found out, and I’m here with the lowdown on everything you need to know about this skin affliction.

What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum, also known as MC, is a skin rash and is a member of the Poxvirus family. This skin condition is common all over the world and is responsible for about one percent of the skin problems in the United States, where it is also on the rise. MC usually affects children and it is more likely to be seen in boys than girls and young adults.

How is it contracted?
The way this rash is transmitted is through direct contact, which means coming into contact with another person that is currently affected. This can be skin-to-skin contact or sharing items like washcloths, clothing and towels. If you have the rash on one part of your body and touch that area and then touch an unaffected area you will spread the rash. Contact sports can also cause the rash to spread to other people.

While molluscum contagiosum has a low rate of contagiousness, doctors still don’t know how long a person that is infected can spread the virus. It may surprise you to know where outbreaks have been known to happen: during surgery if your surgeon has a lesion on his hand, tattoos (though this is rare), wrestling matches and swimming pools. It is also possible to transmit this virus sexually.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of MC can take anywhere from 7 days to seven weeks to appear after exposure. The first symptom consists of small raised bumps that measure about 3 to 6 mm although some might be as big as 3 cm. At first this rash is smooth and pearly- to flesh-colored. In time the centers of the bumps with become soft and indented and have a white curd-like core.

Lesions also develop and can be located on any part of the skin or mucous membranes. They are most often grouped in one or two areas but can be more wide-spread. The most common places lesions occur include the neck, face, eyelids, thighs and underarms.

Though MC is considered a rash, there is there is rarely any tenderness or itching. And unlike other viruses, symptoms such as weakness, nausea or fever are not associated with the MC. If the lesions become irritated or inflamed you will need to seek medical attention for the rash. If you develop lesions around the eyelids it could be associated with pink eye, and also requires medical attention.

Treatment options
In most cases molluscum contagiosum does not require any medical intervention. The rash and lesions will disappear on their own and usually heal without any scarring. If you have the lesions removed it will decrease the likelihood that you will pass the virus to other people and prevent the rash from spreading on your own body.
The most popular treatments are curettage, which is when the lesions are scraped off. Cautery, may also be used, which is when heat is used to remove the lesions. Cyrotherapy is when cold is used to remove the lesions; usually this involves liquid nitrogen. There are also many topical creams that can be used to treat the rash.

So now you know! Hopefully you or your loved ones will never have to deal with molluscum contagiosum, but if you do – you are now prepared to recognize it and treat it correctly.

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