Spotting skin conditions

3 May 2016

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Scientists at Cardiff University have created an online tool to help parents diagnose and better understand a common viral skin condition that particularly affects children.

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin disease that commonly affects children aged up to 14. It can affect people of all ages, but most adults’ immune systems are strong enough to fight it off.

The condition, which affects about 1% of children in the UK, can often go undiagnosed or be confused with chickenpox, and only recently has any treatment been available.

The spots, which are distinguished by a small crater-like dip in the centre, can irritate pre-existing eczema, leading the child to scratch, which make the spots bleed and become infected. They appear suddenly in a small localised crop, usually on the arms, armpits, back, tummy or legs, and can persist for months or even years.

The research team based in the University’s School of Medicine, along with dermatologists at the University Hospital of Wales, undertook research to identify how parents can be helped to make an accurate diagnosis, how long the spots usually last for, and how much of an impact they have on children’s quality of life.

They then used this to develop the Molluscum Contagiosum Diagnostic Tool for Parents (MCDTP), which uses the most effective images and text to support parents in making a diagnosis.

The tool, along with information for parents based on the team’s research, have been used to develop a free website for use by parents, GPs, other clinicians, and researchers.

“Molluscum contagiosum is a common problem, and for most children we recommend no specific treatment,” said Dr Nick Francis, a general practitioner who was part of the Cardiff team.

“However, parents bring their children to see us because they are unsure whether their child has molluscum contagiosum or another skin condition, and they have questions about how long the spots will last and how much they are likely to bother their child.

“This new website fills an important gap, by not only allowing parents to accurately make a diagnosis, but also by giving them essential, evidence-based information about the condition. As more parents become aware of the site, it is likely to reduce the need for GP consultations.”

Researcher, Dr Jonathan Olsen added: “The tool is freely available for use by doctors and if placed on a doctor’s surgery website, alongside a link to our website, could potentially reduce molluscum contagiosum consultations as parents can successfully manage the condition at home.”

The website can be found at www.molluscum-info.com