Molluscum warts are caused by a common viral infection that typically affects children, although adults also can be affected. Molluscum warts can be passed from one adult to another through intimate physical contact and can be classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). While molluscum warts go away on their own, medical treatment of this condition is advisable to keep the virus from spreading to others. Read on to learn more about how this viral infection is spread, what molluscum warts look like, and their effect on the body.
Molluscum contagiosum, the virus that causes molluscum warts, is a member of the poxvirus family that affects the skin's surface. After passing through the skin's barrier, there is an incubation period before warts appear. They have no effect on the internal organs and have no other symptoms other than their physical presentation. Molluscum warts are easily spread by physical contact or by touching objects on which the virus lives, such as doorknobs and toys. When passed on as an STD, molluscum contagiosum is transmitted through direct sexual contact with someone infected with the virus. If the warts are scratched or rubbed, they can spread to other areas of the body.
Mollusca are tiny, flesh-colored or pink dome-shaped warts. They may have a shiny appearance or have a tiny indentation or white core at the center. Although these warts can appear on any part of the body, they're most likely to be noticed in parts of the body that come into contact with each other, such as elbow folds or the groin area. Mollusca can appear in clusters or row-like growth patterns on the chest, stomach area, buttock, and also the face and eyelids. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, may present with larger mollusca that affect the facial area.
Often, mollusca can be easily identified by a doctor or dermatologist simply by gauging their physical appearance. However, a skin scraping may be taken and visualized under a microscope to make an affirmative diagnosis.
Molluscum warts are benign and will go away if left untreated, but a doctor may advise treatment to prevent the warts from spreading to other areas of the body--and to other people. Mollusca are treated in much the same way as other warts. Growths can be cauterized with liquid nitrogen, treated using an electrocautery needle, or removed with use of certain acids. Some laser therapies are effective in removing molluscum warts. Repeated treatment may be necessary if some warts continue to reappear.
If you have molluscum warts, the most important thing is to keep from spreading them to others. The Mayo Clinic advises those with molluscum warts to not share personal items such as clothing and towels with others and to avoid sexual contact until the warts have been effectively treated. Swimmers should cover growths with a water-tight bandage before going into the water. Contact sports also should be avoided until molluscum warts resolve.