Molluscum contagiosum is a benign, cutaneous poxvirus disease of humans, spread by direct contact with infected cells. It is usually acquired by inoculation into minute skin abrasions; events that commonly lead to transmission include “roughhousing” in shower rooms and swimming pools, sharing of towels, and sexual contact.
After an incubation period of 2 to 8 weeks, nodular, pale, firm (pearl-like) lesions usually 2 to 10 mm in diameter develop in the epidermis. These lesions are painless and umbilicated in appearance. A cheesy material may be expressed from the pore at the cen-ter of each lesion. Local trauma may cause spread of lesions in the involved skin area. The lesions are not associated with systemic symptoms, and they disappear in 2 to 12 months without treatment. Specific treatment, if desired, is usually by curettage or careful removal of the central core by expression with forceps.
Pathologic findings, which are limited to the epidermis, include hyperplasia, balloon-ing degeneration, and acanthosis. The diagnosis, made on clinical grounds, can be confirmed by demonstration of large, eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusions (molluscum bodies) in the affected superficial epithelial cells.
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