Common Viruses of the skin include Molluscum Contagiosum, Warts, and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and 2. These viruses are common because they are contagious with skin to skin contact. Although most are only an annoyance, some do have the potential to cause harm to the person affected. Our goal at Water’s Edge Dermatology is to educate and alleviate any possible concerns of our patients.
Molluscum Contagiosum is a common skin condition, especially in children, that comes from the Poxvirus. The virus presents as small umbilicated blisters and is usually diagnosed by a trained eye but can be confirmed with a biopsy. Contagiosum is an adjective that well describes the condition because it is so contagious. Children have more skin-to-skin contact and a lower immunity than adults, explaining why it is more commonly seen at a younger age. There are treatments such as liquid nitrogen or Cantharone (a topical agent) that are often used if the condition is bothersome or spreading. Treatment is not necessary because Molluscum Contagiosum is not harmful and with time should go away on its own. This condition can be sexually transmitted, but more commonly is spread by touching or scratching the area. Helpful tips for prevention include: avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact, avoid sharing towels with someone who is infected, frequent hand washing and protecting the skin’s barrier by keeping it well moisturized.
Warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is easily transmitted. Warts are also more common is children because their immunity is lower than adults. Most often, warts are diagnosed by a trained eye but can also be confirmed by a biopsy. There are different types of warts including; common warts, flat warts, plantar (under the surface of the foot) warts, and genital warts. Treatment may be the same as for Molluscum Contagiosum and is also a condition that may resolve on its own. Warts are typically raised but can be flat as in the flat warts or on the plantar surface of the foot. If warts are found in the genital region, they are usually considered to be sexually transmitted. However, common warts can also be transferred to the genitalia. Warts can be eradicated with treatment but they can return. Women who have a partner diagnosed with genital warts are at a higher risk for cervical cancer and should have regular pap smears. Helpful tips for prevention include: frequent hand washing; avoiding skin-to-skin contact with affected areas; wearing shoes in locker rooms, water parks, public pools and public showers to protect the feet; and protecting the skins barrier by keeping it well moisturized.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) has two types (I and II), that when active, present with blisters or sores that can be painful. Type I is the cold sore virus and is generally found on the face, and type II is the sexually transmitted virus that is typically found in the genital area. However, type I has been found in the genitalia and type II has been found in other parts of the body. Once exposed to the virus, it may lay dormant for a long period of time, or may be such a mild case making it difficult to identify the source of infection. Stress and sun exposure can activate the dormant virus. HSV is contagious during flares but can also be contagious when no lesions are present. HSV is most commonly diagnosed by a trained eye, but a viral culture or blood work can be taken to confirm the diagnosis. HSV is treatable but there is no cure. Symptoms that may indicate the virus is active include tingling, itching, tenderness or burning sensation in the affected area. The treatment is antiviral medications like acyclovir or valacyclovir. If the medication is taken at onset, the symptoms may be minimized and the duration may be shortened. The symptoms will go away on their own with no treatment but may take longer than with the medication. Tips for prevention include: avoiding skin to skin contact to the affected area of a person with known HSV and avoiding sharing drinks, towels, lip balms or other products that may come in contact with the affected area.
These are some of the most common viruses of the skin but certainly not all of them. The key is early diagnosis and prompt treatment for any condition. Proper hand washing may not prevent these conditions, but is the number one way to avoid spreading infections. If you have any questions, please fill free to contact any of our offices. We are happy to help you in any way we can.