Molluscum contagiosum is a frustrating skin condition that can develop in adults and children. While the unsightly papules are not a serious health issue, they are unattractive and may spread rapidly. Though there are a variety of traditional and alternative molluscum treatments, there is no cure. The infection length varies by patient, lasting several weeks to months in most patients. Some people suffer from the virus for as many as three to five years, however, before it leaves the body.
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Caused by a form of Poxvirus, the molluscum contagiosum skin rash is spread through contact with an infected patient or contaminated surface. It is passed by casual or sexual skin-to-skin contact, and can also be transmitted through shared sheets, washcloths, towels and clothing. The infection is occasionally picked up in public locations, like swimming pools, sporting facilities and tattoo parlours. It is also possible to spread molluscum contagiosum papules on your own body by scratching the lesions and then touching another body part.
Molluscum contagiosum is easily diagnosed by a dermatologist. Similar to small warts, the virus appears as raised, fleshy bumps with white, indented cores. The lesion's core is a white, waxy material that can be expelled when the lesion is scraped or squeezed. Molluscum warts may occur individually or in clusters, and are most often found on the upper body, arms, face, eyelids and genitals. Genital molluscum are typically spread by sexual intercourse or intimate contact. The papules may start out very small, but grow to be as large as a pencil eraser as they develop.
It is not necessary to treat the molluscum virus unless you find it to be unsightly or bothersome; there is no guaranteed cure aside from the passage of time. However, there are several mainstream treatments that a dermatologist may recommend. The first is curettage, which is a scraping process designed to remove the contagious molluscum core. The second option is treatment with cryotherapy or acid. During these procedures, the physician applies a small amount of liquid nitrogen or cantharidin ("beetle juice") acid to the warts. These solutions cause blistering, drying and healing of the papules. However, the nitrogen and cantharidin can burn during application, and the healing process may be uncomfortable. Another often-tried treatment is the regular, home application of imiquimod (Aldara) cream, a topical medication designed to boost the immune system and fight the Poxvirus. However, imiquimod is not FDA-approved for this use, and many patients find that it is ineffective and comes with a host of side effects.
For those who are unsuccessful with traditional treatments, homeopathic treatments offer another option. While these treatments vary in their success, they are generally safe to try. A few of the most common alternative treatments include the application of thuja oil, tea tree essential oil, couch grass solution, organically bound iodine, colloidal silver and other medicinal plant extracts. Some of these homeopathic options may cause mild skin irritation in some patients, so discuss concerns with a homeopathic practitioner.
While molluscum contagiosum isn't considered a dangerous condition, papules can become irritated and infected from time to time. If your molluscum lesions become angry red, warm, hard or pus-filled, call your physician. Another round of topical or oral antibiotics may be needed to treat the symptoms and prevent further infection.
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