Over the past thirty years or so, most of us have become aware of the need to engage in safe sexual practices. In order to prevent contracting one of the many types of STDs out there, it is necessary to wear a condom or abstain from sexual activities. One type of STD that is now increasing in frequency is Molluscum Contagiosum. Molluscum contagiosum appears as a skin rash on various areas of the body. Though of little threat to your physical health, molluscum contagiosum can be an uncomfortable and lingering disease to contract.
What is Molluscum Contagiosum?
contagiosum is a skin infection that is caused by a virus called the Poxvirus. It causes a rash of tiny sores that can appear on areas of your skin or on the mucus glands of your eyes, mouth, nose, or genitals. Affecting almost 8% of the world's population, molluscum contagiosum can affect men, women, and children. There are few health risks associated with molluscum contagiosum, however, the infection can be quite uncomfortable and long lasting.
How Do You Get Molluscum Contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is contracted when you engage in skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. In adults, this skin-to-skin contact is generally in the form of sexual activity, including:
- vaginal sex
- oral sex
- anal sex
However, molluscum contagiosum can also be picked up by handling an infected person's clothes or towels, or bathing with an infected person.
Who's At Risk for Contracting Molluscum Contagiosum?
Everyone, including adults and children are at risk for contracting this skin disease. Children between the ages of two and twelve are the most susceptible to the illness because they haven't had the chance to build up immunity to the virus. Adults are also at risk, particularly those who:
- engage in unprotected sexual activity
- engage in mutual masturbation
- share towels, bedding or clothes
The highest incidences of molluscum contagiosum occur in tropical and warm climates around the world. Overall infection rates are approximately 5% to 8% of the population. Additionally, up to 20% of people with active HIV have mulluscum contagiosum/.
Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum
The main symptom of molluscum contagiosum is the appearance of a red or flesh colored rash on certain areas of the body. This rash is made up of individual lesions called molluscum. The molluscum usually:
- appear within two to seven weeks of infection
- grow in clusters of two or more
- grow to between two and five millimeters in diameter
- have indented centers
- grow on the genitals, thighs, and lower abdomen (in adults)
The molluscum are usually painless, however, they sometimes cause intense itchiness. If scratched, you can move the poxvirus along to other parts of your skin, where new molluscum rashes will grow.
Complications of Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum usually causes no health related issues. However, it is possible that your infection will last for a lengthy amount of time. Because it is so easy to spread the virus to other areas of your body (through scratching), many infections last six months or longer. If you scratch at molluscum contagiosum lesions you also put yourself at risk for infection. Serious infection can result in permanent scarring.
Treating Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum usually resolves without any type of treatment. However, it can take a while for the virus to disappear, and may be unpleasant for you or others to look at. In these cases, mulluscum contagiosum can be treated by your health care practitioner. Treatment usually involves removing the molluscum in order to prevent it from spreading to other body parts. Molloscum contagiosum treatment includes:
- Cryosurgery: During cryosurgery, your health care provider will apply liquid nitrogen or dry ice to your sores. After a few seconds, the lesion will be frozen and fall off. Cryosurgery is relatively pain-free.
- Evisceration: Evisceration involves removing the core of the molluscum lesion. This prevents it from growing and stops the spread of the rash. Evisceration is generally done with a scalpel.
- Curettage: Curettage involves scraping the lesions off of the surface of your skin. It also allows for biopsies of the lesions to take place, allowing for accurate diagnosis. Topical pain relievers are usually administered prior to this type of treatment.
Preventing Molluscum Contagiosum
You can reduce your risk of contracting molluscum contagiosum by following a few simple health and safety tips.
- When engaging in any type of sexual activity, be sure to use proper protection. Using a condom can significantly reduce your risk of contracting an STD.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Get tested regularly for STDs, and examine your body for signs of any lesions or outbreaks.
- If you know someone who is infected with the disease, avoiding sharing clothing, towels, or bedding with that person. Also be sure to avoid skin-to-skin contact.