Everything you need to know about molluscum

Below are a series of questions we get asked from patients that Dr. Salyards has answered. Hopefully this information is helpful and if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment call 865-545-0900 or email info@refinederm.com.

What is molluscum? Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that causes small shiny bumps primarily affecting children under age 10.

What causes molluscum? Molluscum lesions are caused by a poxvirus called the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) and is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, indirect contact with shared items (towels), or through scratching or picking existing lesions.

What are different ways to treat molluscum? Molluscum can be treated in a variety of ways and treatment options depend on the location of the molluscum and number of lesions being treated. One of the most common ways for a dermatologist to treat molluscum is by using Cantharidin. Cantharidin is derived from the juice of a blister beetle and can cause controlled blisters when applied carefully to molluscum lesions. Other treatment options include topical medications that stimulate the immune system or irritate the lesions, or destructive methods like cryosurgery (freezing) or curettage.

Does treating molluscum hurt? Most of the common treatment options for molluscum are painless. Using topical prescriptions can sometimes irritate the skin but usually do not cause pain. Cantharidin is painless to apply but the residual blisters can sometimes be tender while healing. If using destructive methods such as cryosurgery or curettage, there may be some mild discomfort during the procedure, but it is usually well-tolerated.

How long does it take for molluscum to go away? It depends on which treatment modality is used. If using cantharidin, molluscum may resolve within 1-2 weeks as the blisters heal. Similar healing time is associated with cryosurgery. If topicals are used, molluscum may take several weeks to resolve. Some lesions may require more than 1 treatment.

Is molluscum likely to come back after it has been treated? Typically, once you’ve been infected with molluscum there is immunity developed to the virus. Because there is more than one strain of the virus, it is possible to develop again.

What will happen to molluscum if I don’t treat it? Molluscum will eventually resolve on their own but can take several months to years. In children, approximately 50% of cases will resolve by 1 year and two-thirds will resolve by 18 months without treatment. Adults may take longer to resolve.

How many visits with a dermatologist will it take to for molluscum to go away? It is possible to treat molluscum in 1 office visit, however, a follow up is typically given so that any persistent or new lesions can be treated. If a topical is being used, there will be at least 1-2 follow up visits to make sure that the topicals are working.

Can adults and kids get molluscum? While molluscum is more common in children, it is possible for adults to get them as well. Most adults have been exposed to the virus during childhood so are less likely to get it as adults.

Is molluscum contagious? Molluscum is contagious and spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact, indirect contact with shared items, or by scratching or picking at lesions.

What should I do to prevent molluscum from spreading? To prevent spread, all household members should use their own towels and wash them after each use. Avoid sharing clothing or other items that come into direct contact with molluscum lesions. Avoid scratching or picking lesions to prevent spreading them on your skin.