The photograph submitted for the telemedicine visit showed 2 classic umbilicated lesions and 1 dome-shaped papule consistent with molluscum contagiosum. Not all skin conditions can be diagnosed or treated via telehealth, but with a careful history, cooperative patients (and parents in this case), and photos taken on newer cell phones or digital cameras, many conditions can be diagnosed and managed appropriately.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by the Molluscipox genus poxvirus and Is commonly seen in preschool and school-aged children. It can be passed through direct contact with infected individuals or spread by fomites. (In this case, the child may have picked up the virus by sharing a towel with an infected individual.)
The flesh-colored lesions are umbilicated or popular, and occur in clusters on the trunk, face, and extremities. Typically, the lesions will resolve spontaneously, but it may take several weeks to many months for resolution.
Given this lengthy time for spontaneous resolution, the risk of spreading to family members or other contacts, and the skin’s appearance, many patients choose to treat the lesions. Treatment options include curettage, cryosurgery, and laser. Available topical destructive agents include podophyllotoxin, trichloroacetic acid, benzoyl peroxide, potassium hydroxide, and cantharidin (which is from the blister beetle and often difficult to obtain). There also are naturopathic topical products and immune system modulators, including topical imiquimod. These treatments are commonly used, but are off-label for the treatment of molluscum contagiosum.
The family was counseled that there is debate about the effectiveness of imiquimod for molluscum contagiosum, but that some studies find it to be useful. In this case, the mother chose a prescription for imiquimod cream 5%, to be applied 3 times weekly at bedtime until the lesions resolved. (The cream can be used for up to 16 weeks.) The family was advised that erythema and irritation are expected adverse effects at the application site.
Photo and text courtesy of Daniel Stulberg, MD, FAAFP, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque.