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Unusual Rash

Q: Lately I've been experiencing boil-like bumps on both of my underarms that are spreading down my sides. They don't look like ingrown hairs, more like mosquito bites that don't itch, but they take forever to go away and they're embarrassing and ugly. I've tried everything: soaps, antibacterial creams, even warm water soaks with oatmeal or Epsom salts. Nothing seems to work. What are they, and how can I get rid of them?

Dr. Donnica: It's impossible to diagnose a rash without seeing it, so I recommend a trip to your dermatologist or your primary care physician for an exam and an accurate diagnosis. From your description, however, you may have a condition called molluscum contagiosum (MCV). MCV is generally a benign, viral infection and symptoms often resolve on their own. Once considered a disease primarily affecting children, it has evolved to become a sexually transmitted disease in adults passed on by skin-to-skin contact. MCV does not have to be transmitted sexually, however. It may be passed on from objects such as "infected" towels or clothing used by someone else with the lesions or even by swimming or bathing with an infected person. These bumps can last from 2 weeks to 4 years, although people with AIDS or otherwise compromised immune systems may develop more extensive outbreaks.

No treatment is usually necessary except for the itchiness. I recommend trying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. If that doesn't work, you can ask your doctor for a prescription remedy. Until your diagnosis is confirmed, avoid touching the bumps and then touching another part of your body without washing your hands first. This may help to prevent the spread of the infection. Please also take measures to prevent anyone else from coming into contact with the affected areas of your skin.

Created: 10/25/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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