Key Points about Molluscum Contagiosum

  • Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that spreads through skin-to-skin contact or through sharing clothing, towels, or sports equipment.
  • Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include having small raised, round, skin-colored bumps, usually on the face, neck, armpits or genitals.
  • Children and people with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of developing molluscum contagiosum.

Overview

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection marked by ­­­­­firm, round bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually painless and skin-colored, and may have a small dot or indent at the top.

Molluscum contagiosum is contagious, and can be transmitted by direct skin-to-skin or sexual contact, or by sharing items such as towels and clothing with an infected person. Bumps may take six months to a year to fully disappear. Call your doctor if you or your child has symptoms of molluscum contagiosum.

Molluscum contagiosum causes

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a viral infection. It can be transmitted via:

  • Direct skin-contact with an infected person
  • Sharing towels, clothing, or sporting equipment with an infected person
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Scratching the bumps

Molluscum contagiosum risk factors

You may be more likely to develop molluscum contagiosum if you are immunocompromised. The condition is more common in children than in adults.

Molluscum contagiosum symptoms

Molluscum contagiosum is characterized by skin bumps that may:

  • Be round and skin-colored
  • Be smaller than a quarter of an inch wide
  • Appear on the neck, face, armpits, genitals or upper thighs
  • Have a small dot or indent at the top
  • Be itchy

Molluscum contagiosum complications

Scratching bumps caused by molluscum contagiosum can lead to infection.

Molluscum contagiosum diagnosis

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed through a visual examination of the affected skin.

Molluscum contagiosum treatment

Because molluscum contagiosum is contagious, your doctor may want to remove your bumps. Removal methods can include:

  • Cryotherapy, or freezing off the bumps
  • Scraping the bumps away
  • Administering a medication that forms blisters, called cantharidin

Without treatment, molluscum contagiosum should resolve within six months to a year. Infected persons are no longer contagious once the last of their bumps have disappeared.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if you or your child has symptoms of molluscum contagiosum.

Next Steps

The spread of molluscum contagiosum can be prevented by:

  • Regular hand-washing
  • Avoiding sharing personal items such as clothing and towels
  • Refraining from touching the affected area
  • Covering your bumps with a bandage or clothing
  • Avoiding sexual contact with infected persons, or while you are experiencing the infection