Molluscum contagiosum is a skin rash consisting of small, pearly nodules that is caused by infection from a DNA pox virus.
About Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus in the DNA pox family. This virus infects humans and results in one or multiple skin lesions that are fluid filled and semi-transparent.
The virus responsible for molluscum contagiosum infections is not associated with any other infections or diseases.
Who Gets Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is fairly rare in healthy adults with the exception of those in the healthcare field.
Typically, molluscum contagiosum infects children, mainly those under the age of six.
Other than children and healthcare workers, the major demographic which becomes infected with molluscum contagiosum are those with compromised immune systems.
What Does Molluscum Contagiosum Look Like?
The skin rash caused by molluscum contagiosum can present with a single lesion, a few lesions grouped in an area, or with several lesions spread across an area of skin.
The skin lesions will typically be clear or flesh colored. It is uncommon for molluscum contagiosum lesions to appear red, white, or dark brown like many other common skin lesions.
Molluscum contagiosum skin lesions will also be shiny or waxy in appearance and have a distinctive depression or umbilication in the center of the lesion.
How Does Molluscum Contagiosum Affect the Eyes?
The eyes are a common site of molluscum contagiosum infections. The skin rash will form along the eyelid near the eyelash line.
The lower lid and upper lid may be affected, depending on the severity of the infection, both eyes may become infected.
These skin lesions on the eyelids can cause extreme itching, irritation, and result in an abnormal eyelid posture (eyelid drooping or turning away from the eye).
Besides the physical changes associated with the skin rash, molluscum contagiosum skin lesions are filled with fluid that creates a toxic reaction if exposed to the front of the eyes.
When one of the molluscum contagiosum skin lesions is ruptured, either by scratching or other force, the fluid of the lesion will leak out into surrounding areas of the body.
If this fluid enters the eye, it will cause a follicular conjunctivitis. The follicular conjunctivitis is marked by red eyes, burning, itching, and follicles on the eyelids when examined.
How to Treat Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum is a self-limiting infection which does not require any treatment to resolve. The typical course of resolution is between six and twelve months from the time of the first skin lesion.
While the primary viral infection is considered self-limiting and has few treatments available, the affects of the molluscum contagiosum lesions and potential follicular conjunctivitis have palliative treatments available to reduce symptoms.
There are skin creams that have been used to reduce the itching associated with the skin lesions.
For a potential follicular conjunctivitis, eye drops, or eye ointments may be prescribed for the symptoms that accompany the conjunctivitis.
Preventing Molluscum Contagiosum
The key to preventing molluscum contagiosum is recognizing that any contact with the molluscum contagiosum lesions, specifically any fluid within them, can lead to another infection.
This means that if you are caring for someone with molluscum contagiosum, it is important to wear gloves and frequently wash linens and towels.
Also, cross transmission between eyes or the eye and other parts of the body is possible so any contact with the lesions should be discouraged.