Ask Dr. Marla: Is "Musculum" contagious?

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on April 03, 2012

Question

My daughter’s friend had something called “musculum”, a wart-like blemish that I’ve never heard of. Is it contagious and how do we treat it? 

Answer 

What you are describing is a condition called molluscum contagiosum. This is caused by a virus that is quite common in children. It causes a rash that looks like small pearls on the skin that are called papules or nodules. The virus is a member of the poxvirus family. 

Molluscum contagiosum typically appears on the face, neck, armpit, arms and hands but frankly, it can be seen anywhere on the body except the palms and soles of the feet. 

Indeed, it is infectious as the name would imply. In children it is spread as a result of direct contact or contact with contaminated objects such as toys or clothing. Once the virus is present on one area, it can spread to another part by touching or scratching a lesion and then touching another part of the body. People with weak immune systems are at higher risk to get molluscum. 

The growths are usually painless but on occasion can be itchy or sore. 

How do we treat it? 

Often no treatment is required as the molluscum disappear by themselves over a six- to 12-month period, although on occasion they can persist for up to four years. 

Treatment options include cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen – the same way that we treat warts. Another option is something called curettage where the physician removes the fluid inside the lesions. In some centres, laser therapy may be an option as well. Treatment is provided by a physician. Treatments in the home setting can include prescription creams. 

Can we avoid spreading it? 

Keep the area with growths clean and covered either with clothing or a bandage so that both you or others do not touch them. Complications of molluscum can include persistence of the lesions or a secondary bacterial infection.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, April 2012


By Dr. Marla Shapiro| April 03, 2012

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