Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Natural Treatments for Molluscum Contagiosum: Growing Viral Skin Infection in Children and Adults

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a viral infection of the skin or occasionally of the mucous membranes. MC infects humans, other primates and kangaroos. The infecting virus is a DNA poxvirus called the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV). There are 4 types of MCV, MCV-1 to -4, with MCV-1 being the most prevalent and MCV-2 seen usually in adults and often sexually transmitted. The incidence of MC infections in young children is around 17% and peaks between 2-12 years of age. MC affects any area of the skin but is most common on the body, arms, and legs. It is spread through direct contact, saliva, or shared articles of clothing (including towels).

In adults, molluscum infections are often sexually transmitted and usually affect the genitals, lower abdomen, buttocks, and inner thighs. In rare cases, molluscum infections are also found on the lips, mouth and eyelids.

The time from infection to the appearance of lesions ranges from 1 week to 6 months, with an average incubation period of 6 weeks. Diagnosis is made on the clinical appearance; the virus cannot routinely be cultured.

Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum lesions are flesh-colored, dome-shaped, and pearly in appearance. They are often 1-5 millimeters in diameter, with a dimpled center. They are generally not painful, but they may itch or become irritated. Picking or scratching the bumps may lead to further infection or scarring. In about 10% of the cases, eczema develops around the lesions. They may occasionally be complicated by secondary bacterial infections.

The central waxy core contains the virus. In a process called autoinoculation, the virus may spread to neighboring skin areas. Children are particularly susceptible to auto-inoculation, and may have widespread clusters of lesions.

Natural Treatments for Molluscum Contagiosum:

There are a few treatment options that can be done at home. Betadine surgical scrub can be gently scrubbed on the infected area for 5 minutes daily until the lesions resolve (this is not recommended for those allergic to iodine or betadine). However, the ability of iodine to penetrate intact skin is poor, and without a pin prick or needle stick into each molluscum lesion this method does not work well.

Australian lemon myrtle
A recent study published in the journal Biomedicine and Pharacotherapy (2004:58(4):245-7)demonstrated resolution of molluscum in children by treatment with an extract of essential oil of Australian lemon myrtle. This preparation has been improved upon by the authors of the study, and is commercially available over-the-counter. (http://www.molluscum-contagiosum.net)

Over-the-counter substances
For mild cases, over-the-counter wart medicines, such as salicylic acid may shorten infection duration. Daily topical application of tretinoin cream ("Retin-A 0.025%") may also trigger resolution. These treatments require several weeks for the infection to clear.

Apple cider vinegar
The spots are also treatable with vinegar. Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and place on molluscum, then cover the area with an adhesive bandage for 24 hours. The wart will be gone with only scab remaining.

Doctors occassionally prescribe Imiquimod, the optimum schedule for its use has yet to be established.
Non-medicine treatment
The infection can also be cleared without medicine if there are only a few lesions. First, the affected skin area should be cleaned with an alcohol swab. Next, a sterile needle is used to cut across the head of the lesion, through the central dimple. The contents of the papule is removed with another alcohol swab. This procedure is repeated for each lesion (and is therefore unreasonable for a large infection). With this method, the lesions will heal in two to three days.

Surgical treatment
Surgical treatments include cryosurgery, in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and destroy lesions, as well as scraping them off with a curette. Application of liquid nitrogen may cause burning or stinging at the treated site, which may persist for a few minutes after the treatment. Scarring or loss of color can complicate both these treatments. With liquid nitrogen, a blister may form at the treatment site, but it will slough off in two to four weeks. Although no longer available in the United States, the topical blistering agent cantharidin can be effective. It should be noted that cryosurgery and curette scraping are not painless procedures. They may also leave scars and/or permanent white (depigmented) marks.

Pulsed dye laser therapy for molluscum contagiosum may be the treatment of choice for multiple lesions in a cooperative patient (Dermatologic Surgery, 1998). The use of pulsed dye laser for the treatment of MC has been documented with excellent results. The therapy was well tolerated, without scars or pigment anomalies. The lesions resolved without scarring at 2 weeks. Studies show 96%–99% of the lesions resolved with one treatment. The pulsed dye laser is quick and efficient, but its expense makes it less cost effective than other options. Also, not all dermatology offices have this 585nm laser.

SilverCure is a system available from ReBuilder Medical Technologies, Inc. on the web at http://www.molluscum.com. This system uses nano-silver and tea tree oil to stop the lesions. The system includes shampoo (because the scalp is skin too), bar soap, liquid hand soap, liquid bandage3 to seal open lesions, an ointment for large areas and an electrical device that infuses the silver directly into the lesion without the need to open the lesion.

To prevent molluscum contagiosum from spreading:

•Try not to scratch. Put a piece of tape or a bandage over any bumps.
•Avoid contact sports, swimming pools, and shared baths and articles of clothing (towels.)
•If bumps are on the face, avoid shaving.
•If bumps are on the genital area, avoid sexual activity.

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