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Molluscum and Eczema

There is a relationship between the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) and atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), though the nature of this relationship is not yet clear. Children with atopic eczema are more likely to become infected with the virus. Approximately 10% of individuals with papules (raised skin bumps) develop eczema around them. The eczema that develops along with the lesions (skin abnormalities) usually disappears once the papules have been eliminated. It has been theorized that the eczema is actually part of the body's response to the lesions, since some doctors have noted the eczema often appears shortly before the papules become inflamed then clear up. When the two conditions occur together, it is known as eczema molluscatum (EM). The eczema can cause itching that allows MCV to be spread when the papules are scratched, releasing the virus to make its way into broken skin elsewhere. It also appears that the cortisone creams often used to treat eczema, can suppress the skin's immunity to MCV and the number of papules can increase into the hundreds, so some medical professionals recommend treating the papules rather than the eczema surrounding them. EM has been treated successfully with 0.1% tacrolimus ointment, a steroid that reduces inflammation without the skin thinning associated with other topical (applied directly to the skin) steroids used to treat skin problems.

Since people with atopic dermatitis are more susceptible to the virus, they can take precautionary measures such as not sharing baths or personal items such as soap, hair brushes, clothes, towels, or razors. They should ensure that workout equipment has been thoroughly cleaned before using it, wash their hands regularly and properly, and practice safer sex (having one, uninfected monogamous partner, using a barrier method such as condoms or dental dams (a rectangular piece of latex or silicone that prevents the transfer of fluids from the vulva, anus, and mouth), etc.) if they are not abstinent. They should avoid scratching irritated skin to make it more difficult for MCV to find an entryway into the skin where it can settle and replicate (make copies of) itself.

Molluscum contagiosum cannot be pre-emptively treated if you have been exposed to the virus as it is usually diagnosed based on the distinctive appearance of the papules and/or examination of the material removed from the centre of a lesion under a microscope. Testing cannot be done until an outbreak occurs. It is, however, impossible to ever know whether or not you will develop symptoms in the future as you may be exposed to the virus at any time and the incubation period can be months long, so it is really up to you whether you consider taking the above precautions all the time to be a worthwhile endeavour.

Although molluscum contagiosum is more common in those with atopic dermatitis, it should still be noted that there are several skin conditions such as warts (genital or otherwise), herpes, pearly penile papules, and various types of acne that are often confused with the papules, so if you have any skin irritation, bump, blister, or rash that lasts more than a few days, you should see a medical professional who can correctly diagnose it.

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