Warts and molluscum contagiosum are relatively similar, common viral skin infections that we evaluate and treat at Strimling Dermatology, Laser & Vein Institute.
What are Warts?
Warts are abnormal skin growths caused by a virus that infects human skin via direct contact with the virus. Warts may occur anywhere on the skin or internal lining mucous membranes. Genital or anal warts occur around the genital and anal areas and plantar warts occur on the soles of the feet. Common warts generally occur everywhere else on the skin.
Common warts are usually smallish, grainy to rough or “warty” skin bumps that may have tiny black dots. Colors range from skin-colored to white to pink / red or tan / brown. Flat warts are a variant of warts that are very subtle in appearance and may appear as only very small, slightly elevated, flat-topped bumps. Genital warts also have a variety of appearances and may be difficult to see with the naked eye. Plantar warts may look like a callus with black dots or a subtle skin growth that interrupts normal skin lines.
Warts are most common in children and young adults or those with a weakened immune system.
Warts may go away on their own, but many people want them treated because they are uncomfortable or embarrassing, spreading and they are contagious.
If untreated, warts can spread and/or be transmitted to others. Warts may become painful. Some wart viruses can even transform into skin cancer or be a form of skin cancer, especially genital warts. And, skin cancer, itself, can be confused with a wart.
Warts are generally curable, but may grow back, especially genital warts.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by an infection with human papillomavirus (HPV); over 100 HPV types exist. Some are more likely to cause common warts and others are more likely to cause plantar warts, genital warts or other warts of the internal lining mucous membranes. Different HPV types may cause new infections.
All warts are spread person-to-person from direct contact with the virus from an infected person’s skin or an object contaminated by an infected person’s skin. Genital warts are spread by sexual contact. Generally, a small break in the skin is required for the virus to enter the skin and lack of an immune response to prevent the virus from taking hold and replicating.
Individual susceptibility to warts varies with a person’s immune system response to warts.
How are warts treated?
Common warts (not on the face or other sensitive areas) and plantar warts may be treated with over-the-counter topical salicylic acid preparations. If not gone after several weeks, evaluation by one of our dermatology providers is recommended. Genital warts should be evaluated by a dermatologist as they may be cancerous.
Our dermatology providers employ a variety of prescription topical medications and in-office treatment options for warts, including destruction by freezing or minor surgical removal depending upon a variety of factors, such as size and number of warts, type and locations, and patient desires among others.
What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum (aka molluscum) is a relatively common viral skin infection characterized by small, round, painless, skin colored to pink-red umbilicated bumps. Umbilicated means there is a small indentation or depression or dot centrally in the skin bump.
Molluscum is most common in children, but can infect adults with a weakened immune system. Adults with a normal immune system may acquire molluscum in the genitals, buttocks, lower abdomen and inner thighs via sexual transmission. In children, molluscum usually occurs on the trunk and extremities, but may occur anywhere. Molluscum may be prevalent in warmer climates and crowded living conditions.
Molluscum is contagious and may be itchy and spread by scratching or rubbing the bumps. Molluscum may spread more easily or be more severe and difficult to eradicate in patients with eczema or a weak immune system.
If untreated, molluscum can spread and cause pink eye (i.e. conjunctivitis) if the eyelids are involved or become secondarily infected with bacteria if scratched and leave scars and/or be transmitted to others.
Molluscum often goes away within several months to a year without treatment or scarring. However, in some individuals, molluscum may leave scars, especially if the lesions become secondarily infected with bacteria. Many people treat molluscum because they are uncomfortable or embarrassing, spreading and they are contagious.
What causes molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a human skin virus.
Molluscum contagiosum is spread person-to-person from skin contact with the virus from an infected person’s skin or a contaminated object carrying the virus from an infected person’s skin. Genital molluscum contagiosum is spread by sexual contact. In general, a small break in the skin is required for the virus to enter the skin and the lack of an immune response to prevent the virus from taking hold and replicating. Visible skin bumps occur several weeks to months after this initial exposure.
Individual susceptibility to molluscum contagiosum varies with a person’s immune system response.
How is molluscum contagiosum treated?
Molluscum contagiosum (not on the face or other sensitive areas) may be treated with over-the-counter topical salicylic acid preparations. If not gone after several weeks, treatment by a dermatologist may be desired.
Our dermatology providers may use one or more of a variety of prescription topical medications and in-office treatment options for molluscum, including freezing or minor surgical removal depending upon size, number and locations of molluscum bumps and patient desires among other factors.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (702) 243-6400 to schedule a wart or molluscum contagiosum evaluation and treatment consultation.