Molluscum Contagiosum (cont.)
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Nili N. Alai, MD, FAAD
Dr. Alai is an actively practicing medical and surgical dermatologist in south Orange County, California. She has been a professor of dermatology and family medicine at the University of California, Irvine since 2000. She is U.S. board-certified in dermatology, a 10-year-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Fellow of the American Society of Mohs Surgery.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Molluscum contagiosum facts
- What is molluscum contagiosum? What causes molluscum contagiosum?
- Who develops molluscum contagiosum?
- What are molluscum contagiosum symptoms and signs?
- How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for molluscum contagiosum?
- How do I treat the accompanying rash with molluscum contagiosum?
- How do I treat the persistent skin discoloration after molluscum contagiosum?
- Why do I keep getting more molluscum bumps where I shave?
- What are possible complications of molluscum contagiosum?
- What is the prognosis with molluscum contagiosum?
- How do I prevent molluscum contagiosum?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?
The diagnosis of molluscum is commonly based simply on its appearance. Most pediatricians and family physicians are able to identify this condition during an in-office skin exam.
A few other medical conditions may resemble molluscum and need to be examined more closely by a dermatologist. A dermatologist may therefore be consulted for atypical cases of molluscum.
While typical cases do not require special tests, cases that are more difficult may warrant a relatively painless in-office skin scraping by a dermatologist using a microscope, glass slide, and potassium hydroxide to rapidly detect the small poxvirus particles. Rarely, a small skin biopsy may be used to help the doctor confirm the diagnosis.
Other times, a skin bacterial culture may be taken by a cotton-tip applicator to assist in detecting a secondary bacterial skin infection, such as Staphylococcus.
What is the treatment for molluscum contagiosum?
There are many effective treatment options (possibly due to the high spontaneous remission rate) for treating molluscum. Some physicians may also suggest not treating the molluscum contagiosum, allowing it to go away on its own. The specific treatment depends on the areas involved, number of bumps, age of the individual, and underlying health conditions.
Many available wart treatments are also used to treat molluscum. It is very important to keep in mind that regardless of the treatment, multiple and repeat treatments may be required to get rid of all of the bumps.
Home remedies for mild cases of molluscum include one or a combination of the following:
- using an over-the-counter salicylic acid patch like Trans-ver-sal or Compound W;
- self-freezing every two to three weeks with an over-the-counter home wart freezer device;
- applying a very small piece of duct tape or electrical tape applied to the individual molluscum bumps daily.
Professional medical treatments may include one or a combination of the following:
- freezing with liquid nitrogen, called cryotherapy;
- burning using light electrocautery;
- painlessly applying cantharidin "beetle juice" or "blister beetle fluid";
- manually extracting the core using a special tool called a comedone extractor;
- applying chemical acid;
- surgically removing using a small, sharp, spoon-like instrument called a curette;
- applying retinoid like tretinoin (Retin-A) or tazarotene (Tazorac) cream at home daily;
- applying topical immune activating medications like imiquimod (Aldara) cream;
- applying topical chemotherapy cream like 5-fluorouracil (Efudex or Carac);
- using laser therapy in some cases.
Molluscum contagiosum is usually easily and fully curable. There are very rare, long-standing cases of molluscum contagiosum in immunocompromised people that may not be curable.
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