Molluscum Contagiosum is a viral skin infection that causes painless raised flesh or pearly colored bumps (sometimes hockey shaped) on the surface of the skin. This common viral disease is usually seen in children ages one to ten. It also occurs in sexually active adults. Any part of the body can be affected but the trunk, arms and legs are most common.
Transmission of the virus that causes Molluscum usually occurs with direct skin-to-skin contact such as scratching the bumps, playing with other children or sexual contact in adults. Transmission can also occur through the sharing of towels or clothes. The virus can spread from one part of the body to another or to other people. Molluscum Contagiosum is contagious until all of the bumps on the skin are gone.
Treatments include both in-office procedures and topical creams used at home, although creams are not very effective. If left untreated, the virus will eventually clear but can take months or years for all of the virus to resolve.
The most commonly used treatment is Cantharidin, also referred to as “beetle juice”. Cantharidin is a chemical found naturally in members of the beetle family hence the nickname “beetle juice”. It is a liquid that is painlessly applied to the bumps on the skin in the office and washed off at home a few hours later. The Cantharidin causes the treated areas to mildly blister and the virus to be destroyed. Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen is a sprayed onto the bumps causing mild blistering and destruction of the virus. Extraction of the virus with a curette or a needle is sometimes necessary if there are growths on the face. Prescription strength topical creams are also available to treat molluscum contagiosum at home but may take longer to work than in office treatments, and are sometimes ineffective.
Usually one to two in office treatments are successful, occasionally many visits are necessary to completely eradicate the virus. Since the incubation period (the time between when the skin is infected and the bumps come out) is 6 weeks, so sometimes even right after we treat the existing spots, new bumps form.