DefinitionMolluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin.
CausesMolluscum contagiosum is caused by a specific virus. The virus can be spread from:
- Direct skin to skin contact with an infected person
- Shared items, such as towels or wrestling mats
- One part of a person's body to another area
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your risk of getting molluscum contagiosum include:
- Weakened immune system, especially in people with HIV infection
- Poor hygiene
- Overcrowded conditions
- Sexual contact
- Having other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis
SymptomsMolluscum contagiosum may cause:
- Small, dome-shaped bumps with dimpling in center
- Painless, but may be itchy or tender
- Appear translucent, pearly or flesh-colored at first then may turn gray and drain
- White or waxy substance in center of lesion
- Usually multiple lesions in groups
- Face, trunk, arms, and legs are common sites in children
- Genitals, abdomen, and inner thigh are common sites in adults
- Can last from several weeks to several years
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DiagnosisDiagnosis is usually made based on the lesion appearance. Sometimes a biopsy will be taken to rule out other conditions. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of the area.
TreatmentMolluscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own within six months to two years without any treatment. For people with HIV infection, the lesions usually persist and spread indefinitely. Your doctor may recommend the removal of some lesions to prevent the spread of the infection or to avoid infecting others.Lesion may be removed by one of the following:
- Cryotherapy—freezing of the lesion
- Curettage—cutting out lesion
- Laser surgery—steady or pulsed high intensity light
- Topical therapy—destruction of the lesion with a variety of chemicals
PreventionTo reduce your chances of getting molluscum contagiosum, avoid any contact with an infected person.If you are contagious, avoid any personal contact with others, contact sports, or sharing personal items.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Social Health Association
Canadian Dermatology Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Dohil MA, Lin P, et al. The epidemiology of molluscum contagiosum in children. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(1):47-54.
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Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/molloscum-contagiosum. Accessed May 22. 2014.
Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 19, 2013. Accessed May 22, 2014.
Molluscum contagiosum: questions & answers. American Social Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/std-sti/molluscum-contagiosum.html. Accessed May 22, 2014.
Stulberg DL, Hutchinson AG. Molluscum contagiosum and warts. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(6):1233-1240.
Theos AU, Cummins R, et al. Effectiveness of imiquimod cream 5% for treating childhood molluscum contagiosum in a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Cutis. 2004;74(2):134-138,141-142.
- Reviewer: Michael A Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2014
- Update Date: 05/22/2014
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