Molluscum contagiousum FAQ

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by smallpox virus and is mainly seen in children. This disease was first described in the literature in 1817. Molluscum contagiosum is found all over the world, but the highest incidence is recorded in tropical countries with high humidity. The virus only attacks people. It is a relatively rare dermatological disease – it accounts for only 1 percent of all diagnosed skin diseases. The disease most often affects preschool and school children. The virus is transmitted through physical contact with an infected person or their personal belongings (clothes, towels, toiletries). Infection often occurs in the swimming pool.

Molluscum contagiosum is manifested by punctual lesions on the skin. They have the form of dome-shaped lumps with a characteristic depression in the middle, clogged with dead epithelial cells mixed with virus particles. However, the depression may not occur in all eruptions.

Skin lesions are between 1 and 5 millimetres. Their colour may be pearly, yellowish, flesh-coloured, pink, red. In children, lesions most often appear on the limbs and torso, in adults, however, they occur most commonly in the lower abdomen, on thighs and on private parts. Changes occur in clusters. If they are small (especially in children), it is difficult to observe depressions in papules. Pustules are not painful, but they can itch (by scratching, the virus may be transferred to other sites on the body of an infected person). The biggest concern for parents of children suffering from molluscum contagiosum (water warts) is the fear that the child will be for some time excluded from physical activity and spending time with other children, so they want a rapidly acting remedy.

Molluscum contagiosum treatments involve mechanical and chemical methods. Mechanical methods are effective, but expose the affected child to a potentially highly painful and traumatic experience. These methods include: cryotherapy (freezing lesions out), electrocoagulation, laser therapy and curettage (physical removal of individual lesions one by one). These methods are associated with a risk of permanent skin damage and scarring. Their effectiveness depends largely on the efficiency and skills of the doctor performing the procedure and the number and the total area of skin lesions. Chemical methods include treatment with chemical agents (based on, among others, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, potassium hydroxide, benzoyl peroxide) used topically. Their action is based on induction of local inflammation, which leads to damage to both healthy and infected skin. Contact with these agents is associate with unpleasant burning sensation. After applying chemicals the skin becomes irritated. Discoloration and scars may appear.

Contrary to the use of traditional methods of treatment, therapy with the Mollusan® MED medical product significantly alleviates the course of the disease. Liquid formula does not damage healthy skin, its application is completely comfortable and safe, and the skin recovers without leaving marks and with no side effects.

In people with a healthy immune system, skin changes disappear spontaneously, but in most of them the process takes several months. A study carried out in the United Kingdom with 269 children between 4 and 15 years of age showed that the time to spontaneous disappearance of the lesions was on average 13 months. In 30 percent of cases, this time was up to 18 months, and in 13% of cases disappearance of skin lesions took over 2 years (source: Olsen JR, Gallacher J, Finlay AY, Piguet V, Francis NA. Time to resolution and effect on quality of life molluscum contagiosum in children in the UK: A prospective community cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis 2015 ; 15 (2): 190-5.)

The virus is transmitted through physical contact with an infected person or their personal belongings (clothes, towels, toiletries). Often infection occurs on public swimming pools. The disease can spread to other parts of the body. Children who cannot resist scratching of the affected skin are particularly vulnerable to this. Usually, skin changes appear 2 to 7 weeks after infection, but can also develop after several months.

Yes, the child can infect parents and other people through physical contact or contact with the child’s personal belongings, especially toiletries. To avoid infection, it is important not to share towels, bed linen, bath sponges and bathtubs with an infected person. Parents should also take care of daily changes of the child’s towels and pyjamas.

Children with water warts do not have to stay at home. However, parents should ensure that children do not rub, scratch or otherwise irritate eruptions, because they contain a groats-like substance with virus particles. This way the virus can be transferred to other, uninfected parts of the skin. Affected children should avoid physical contact with others.

Parents should also take care of daily changes of the child’s towels and pyjamas.

Skin lesions should not be squeezed and otherwise irritated, because pustules contain dead epithelial cells mixed with virus particles. Scratching and squeezing the lesions causes the virus to spread further throughout the body (self-infection).

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