|What Is Molluscum Contagiosum? Description and Treatment|
by Francesca J. Fusco, M.D.
Q. What is molluscum, and how do you treat it?
A. It invades your skin. … It can spread all over your body—even to your friends! … And it’s downright, well, harmless, actually.
As the name molluscum contagiosum suggests, it is highly contagious and spreads easily—especially among children. It can also be sexually transmitted. After infection, bumps may not show up for an estimated two weeks to six months.
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To prevent the spread of the bumps—either on your own body or onto someone else’s—keep them covered with adhesive bandages, and don’t scratch.
The next thing to do is up to you. You can let the virus go away on its own. (This usually takes six to 12 months but can take up to four years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Or you can have the bumps removed. This eliminates the source of the infection— the viral particles under the dimples. Personally, I recommend removal—and the sooner the better, to stop the bumps before they spread further.
Your health-care provider can cut (my preference), burn or freeze the bumps off, apply a topical agent to make the bumps self-destruct, or prescribe something that you can apply at home. Bear in mind, however, that it can take several days or even weeks for topical treatments to yield results, and when dealing with a condition as contagious as molluscum contagiosum, time may be of the essence.
Photo courtesy Francesca J. Fusco, M.D.
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Last updated and/or approved: February 2011. Original article appeared in fall 2006 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.