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Molluscum are smooth, pearly, flesh-colored skin growths caused by a virus. They begin as small bumps and may grow as large as a pencil eraser. Many have a central pit where the virus bodies live. Usually, molluscum can be itchy and the skin around the growths may become infected. The bumps usually last from two weeks to one and a half years, and can go away by themselves. The molluscum may be passed from person to person by direct contact.
What type of treatment is available for molluscum?
Although molluscum will eventually resolve, lesions spread easily, may become infected, may be itchy or irritated, and are sometimes cosmetically objectionable. For these reasons, they are often removed. The treatment depends on the age of the patient and the size and location of the growths. Cantharone, a blistering agent made from beetles, is applied with a wooden applicator to the skin growth. The medicine should be washed off in 4 to 6 hours. A small blister usually forms in a few hours to one day. When the scab falls off, the growth is gone. This treatment is useful because the application is not painful; it is used carefully and selectively on the face and in skin creases. Occasionally no blistering occurs. Sometimes, the patient is quite sensitive and extensive blistering is seen. Scarring does not occur from Cantharone treatment. Although blisters are uncomfortable, they are very superficial and resolve within a few days. Compresses with lukewarm water and breaking the blisters with a sterile needle may help.
Freezing with liquid nitrogen is another form of treatment. Liquid nitrogen is applied with a cotton-tipped applicator, feels hot for a moment, and then may form a blister or irritation at the site. Another way to remove molluscum is by scraping the bump or removing the center, a treatment that is performed after numbing the area with a special cream. All forms of treatment may cause some discomfort, which is usually eased by acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
Treatment creams are also available, such as MolluscumRx.
New molluscum may form while existing ones are being treated. Any lesions large enough to be seen will be treated. Multiple treatments are usually required. Don’t be concerned if molluscum recur or new lesions present, just make an appointment for further therapy.