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Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that usually presents as clusters of raised red or skin-colored bumps. Lesions associated with this viral infection are painless, and they typically go away on their own within a few months without treatment. In fact, molluscum contagiosum treatment is often discouraged for otherwise healthy children and adults. If skin rashes get worse or a person is concerned about his or her appearance, a doctor can consider excision surgery, cautery, cryotherapy, chemical treatment, or topical creams. An individual can schedule a consultation with a dermatologist to learn about different molluscum contagiosum treatment options in detail and choose the best option.
If a patient has only a few small lesions, his or her dermatologist may consider scraping them away with a scalpel. Excision surgery can usually be performed in the doctor's office in a matter of minutes. The patient is given a localized anesthetic before the doctor carefully cuts around the outer rim of a lesion. After the entire mass is removed, a protective bandage is secured over the area and antibiotics are prescribed to prevent infection. Surgery is usually a very effective form of molluscum contagiosum treatment, though the procedure may cause scarring.
Larger clusters of lesions are typically removed by freezing or burning them until cells die and fall off of the skin. Cryotherapy involves subjecting bumps to pure liquid nitrogen, which freezes them on contact. The dermatologist can also burn lesions away using an electrocautery needle. High-intensity electricity causes the core of a lesion to heat up, singe, and burn away. Dermatologists who are trained in cryotherapy and electrocautery are very careful during procedures to ensure that healthy skin is preserved and scarring is kept to a minimum.
Another popular option for molluscum contagiosum treatment involves inducing a chemical reaction that makes lesions blister and separate from the underlying skin. A chemical called cantharidine, which is derived from Cantharis vesicatoria beetle secretions, is applied to a bump using a cotton swab. When it comes into contact with the lesion, it immediately induces blistering and inflammation. The process causes the bump to raise, making it easy to pick off of the skin. Cantharidine generally does not leave a burn or scar after treatment.
Molluscum contagiosum that becomes widespread is difficult to treat with surgery or other clinical procedures. A topical ointment called imiquimod may be prescribed for daily applications to gradually decrease the size of lesions over the course of about two months. Imiquimod triggers the release of inflammation-inducing chemicals from the immune system, which destroys the outer layers of tissue surrounding a lesion.
It is important to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of different types of molluscum contagiosum treatment with a licensed dermatologist. The doctor can determine if a patient is a good candidate for a particular procedure and discuss the risks involved. It is possible for the infection to return following treatment, but most people who remain in good health eventually stop having outbreaks.
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