Last Updated June 24th, 2019
What is Molluscum contagiosum?
It is a skin infection caused by a virus named Molluscum contagiosum. It is characterized by gentle painless bumps (lesions) on the upper layers of skin. The name “contagiosum” suggests that it is contagious. It naturally occurs in children and has also evolved into a sexually transmitted disease in adults.
Characteristics of this infection
- A large number of small, firm, pain-free raised spots to appear on the skin.
- These spots can be itchy.
- They can develop as small clusters and spread across different areas of the body.
- It spreads by direct skin contact and also by unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
- It also spreads if you come in contact with any object used by an infected individual.
- Scratching the lesions can also spread the infection.
- It does not spread by coughing or sneezing.
- Usually, about 10 – 20 bumps tend to appear but 100 or more bumps appear in individuals with a weaker immune system.
What are the symptoms of Molluscum contagiosum?
- The bumps begin as small, firm, dome-shaped growths.
- They tend to develop into raised, round and flesh-colored or pink colored
- The lesions or bumps are small sized (about 1/4 inch or less than 6 millimeters in diameter).
- The bumps usually appear on the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, in the face, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, and genital area.
- Bumps present themselves with a small dot or a dimple at the top near the center. The dimple might be filled with a thick, white substance that is cheesy or waxy.
- The bumps can become red and inflamed.
- The infection spreads to the adjacent areas if you scratch or rub on the bumpy areas.
- If the infection is sexually transmitted, the bumps will be seen on the genitals, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs in those adults.
- If an individual already has a disease that weakens the immune system (like Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)), the bumps tend to grow large in size.
- An individual probably will have 100 or more bumps on the face alone in case of severe infection.
Diagnosis of Molluscum contagiosum
The doctor will diagnose this infection first by looking at your skin. Sometimes, the molluscum can be mistaken for another skin condition. The bumps can look like warts, chickenpox, and even skin cancer. So, the dermatologist will scrape off a bit of the infected skin (biopsy) and examine it under a microscope.
Treatment of Molluscum contagiosum
Treatment is not really necessary if the infection occurs in a healthy individual. If the infection leads to other skin complications, therapy is advisable to prevent further spread of the infection. The following traits in an infected individual indicate the need for medical treatment:
- Large lesions located on your face and neck.
- If you have an existing skin disease such as atopic dermatitis (an itchy inflammation of the skin).
- If you have serious concerns about spreading the virus.
- If the lesions appear in the genital area (on or near the penis, vulva, vagina, or anus), consult your doctor as this may spread further via sexual contact.
Physical removal options
The physical removal of the spots must be done by a trained professional and some may require local anesthesia. Some of these can result in post-procedural pain, irritation, and scarring
- Cryotherapy – involves the freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen.
- Curettage – involves piercing of the core and scraping off the cheesy material.
- Laser therapy – involves the use of a laser to destroy the lesions. This treatment may be suitable for people with a weak immune system.
You can gradually remove the lesions by the use of oral medications. This option is suitable for pediatric patients as it is generally less painful and can be performed by parents at home in a less threatening environment.
Treating Mollusca contagiosum infections in men can be done via the application of ointments or creams. Such treatments are not advisable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those who are planning to get pregnant as it is toxic to the fetus. Here, you must treat each lesion individually as the therapeutic effect is localized. There are other options for topical therapy like iodine and salicylic acid, potassium hydroxide, etc. Some of the treatment options are not effective for the treatment of Molluscum contagiosum in children. Such treatments must be consulted with the doctor first.
Treatment for a weak immune system
- In the cases where the immune system becomes weak like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or medications used for treating cancer, it becomes difficult to treat Molluscumcontagiosum.
- Antiretroviral therapy is a fruitful treatment for people with HIV if they contract Molluscumcontagiosum. This therapy terminates the enzymes associated with viral replication. It boosts immunity by terminating the virus.
- Consult a doctor before for any treatment options forMolluscum contagiosum. Most of the time, treatment will not be necessary to treat the lesions caused by Molluscumcontagiosum especially for an individual with a healthy immune system. The bumps will fade away without medical intervention.
Diet instructions for the treatment of Molluscum contagiosum
An ideal way to healthy living is by consuming a balanced diet. If you want to cure the infection, equip your body by including the following sources for your diet.
- Consume raw garlic for the rapid disappearance of the bumps. Garlic contains a compound called allicin which shows antiviral and antifungal properties.
- The use of turmeric is known to have antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of a compound called curcumin.
- Consumption of apple cider vinegar (by mixing 2 tablespoons with water) brings your body into an alkaline state and thus helps in minimizing the infection.
- You can also include raw onions in your diet as it has anti-viral properties.
- Consume fiber to cleanse your body off the toxins and infectious microbes like viruses and bacteria. You can rely on fiber foods like kale, spinach, other leafy green vegetables, organic whole psyllium husk, green beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Drink sufficient water as the water contains essential minerals and nutrients. These nutrients help in maintaining proper immune system function and help in removal of the viruses from the body. Water maintains an optimal thickness of the blood and prevents it from becoming too thick as the blood is vital for conveying nutrients into the body.
Why is the usual treatment not advisable for children?
- The infection vanishes on its own.
- In children, the infection does not cause any other severe symptoms other than the appearance of spots.
- The infection does not interfere with the day to day activities like playing sports, swimming, etc.
- Certain treatment options can be painful and they may cause scarring or damage to the surrounding skin. This reduces the confidence in children even more.
Home remedies for children with Molluscum contagiosum
Due to many invasive treatments, some parents choose to try some home remedies for treating the infection.
- It is extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts from the coconut palm.
- Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids. Using coconut oil on the skin retains the moisture of the skin.
- The fatty acids in coconut oil also have anti-inflammatory properties. When you apply coconut oil to irritated skin, it keeps the skin moisturized and thus reduces the itchiness.
- Avoid preparations of coconut oil that contain perfumes as this acts as an irritant to your skin.
Australian lemon myrtle
- A study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, emphasizes applying a 10% solution of Australian lemon myrtle essential oil once a day. Australian lemon myrtle essential oil has astringent (reduces the bleeding or skin abrasion) properties.
- This treatment shrinks the symptoms by 90% or more.
- It can be applied daily.
- The study also shows the drastic reduction in the lesions after 21 days of regular application
Tea tree oil
- A study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology talks about the applications of tea tree oil combined with iodine twice per day. This treatment showed a significant reduction in the Mollusca
- In the study, the children also experienced a reduction in symptoms with just the application of tea tree oil.
- The study also highlighted the use of a combination of tea tree oil and iodine showing the greatest results.
- Tea tree oil is a known antiseptic (prevents the growth of infectious or disease-causing organisms). It may cause an allergic reaction in some children. So, it is advisable to test a small unaffected area with the oil. If there is no allergic reaction in 24 hours it indicates that it is safe to use. Keep in mind that children must not consume tea tree oil.
Colloidal oatmeal baths
- The colloidal oatmeal bath helps in soothing irritated and itchy skin.
- Grind the colloidal oatmeal properly and add it to warm (not hot) bath water.
- Oatmeal has special triglycerides (fatty acids)which coat the skin and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Check if you have ground the oats well by adding a spoonful of oats to warm water. If the water does not turn milky white, it is understood that you need to grind the oatmeal a little more.
- Curtail the colloidal oatmeal bath to 10 to 15 minutes. This is because longer oatmeal baths tend to dry your skin which will cause more irritation.
- You can also mix the colloidal oatmeal in a bowl or glass. Dip a washcloth in it and apply the washcloth on the areas irritated or aggravated skin.
Other essential oils
- There are many other essential oils that have antiviral properties and also reduce itching and appearance of the skin lesions. Some of the essential oils include neem oil, eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, lavender oil, and oregano oil. Prepare a mixture with a few drops of any of these essential oils and carrier oil (like coconut oil or jojoba oil). Apply the oil mixture on the skin once or twice every day.
- Before applying the oil mixture, perform a patch test (to test for any allergic reactions or skin irritations). Apply the oil on an uninfected portion of the skin and observe for 24 h for any reactions. If there are no reactions, then it is safe to use.
Apple cider vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar is vinegar produced from fermented apple juice. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties too. With the help of a cotton swab dipped in apple cider vinegar, apply the apple cider vinegar on affected areas, and bind the swab with a bandage and leave it for a few hours.
- Those who have a sensitive skin type can dilute the apple cider vinegar with a little water before applying it. If there are signs of irritation, immediately remove the swab, and gently wash the skin.
You can prevent the infection of Molluscum contagiosum with the following suggestions:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap properly.
- Instruct the child into the hand washing habit.
- Do not share your personal items (towels, clothing, hair brushes, or bar soaps).
- Keep away from sharing any sports gear that may have come in direct contact with someone else’s bare skin.
- Do not pick or touch the lesions.
- Maintain good skin hygiene to protect yourself from getting infected by others, and to prevent the spread of your infection to others.
- Refrain from shaving or using electrolysison the affected areas.
- Curtail yourself from any sexual contact if you have bumps in your genital area.
Swimming pool precautions
There are no clear reports to indicate the spread of the Molluscumcontagiosum virus can in the chlorinated water found in swimming pools. Some scientists also suggest that the viral infection can spread by sharing towels, kickboards and also by direct skin contact. Curb the spread of Molluscum contagiosum by covering the bumps with watertight bandages before swimming and by not sharing any towels or swimming equipment.
- Infection usually subsides in a few months with no treatment.
- It is usually harmless and takes up to 18 months to clear completely.
- As the infection subsides, the lesions do not leave a scar behind.
- The prevalence of this disease is similar in men and women.
- Once you have had the infection, you will not become immune from getting infected again.
- Once all the bumps are gone, it is no longer contagious.
- In 2010, 122 million people worldwide were affected by this disease.
- It commonly occurs in children between 1 – 4 years.
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Dos and Don'ts
- Maintain good hygiene and wash hands with soap regularly.
- Avoid touching other people.
- Wash your contaminated clothes separately.
- Refrain from any sexual intercourse if the lesions are present in the genital areas.
- Consume refined sugar, caffeine, bakery products, etc.
- Squeeze or meddle with the lesions.
- Share personal items like towels, soaps, etc., with others.
- Stop the treatment without consultation with your doctor.
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