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Definition

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection.

Causes

The molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) causes the infection. MCV spreads from contact with someone who has it. This can happen through:

  • Touching skin to skin
  • Having sex
  • Sharing items such as a towel, or yoga or wrestling mat

It can also spread from one part of your body to another. This happens mainly with your hand.

Risk Factors

Your chances of molluscum contagiosum are higher if you have:

  • Other skin problems such as atopic dermatitis
  • Problems with your immune system from:
    • HIV infection
    • Medicines
    • Leukemia

Symptoms

Bumps generally appear on the face, trunk, arms, and legs of children. The groin, belly, and inner thighs are common places on adults.

Molluscum contagiosum may cause:

  • Small, flesh-colored, dome-shaped bumps with dimpling in middle
  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Clear, pearly, or flesh-colored bumps that may turn gray and drain
  • White or waxy substance in the middle of bump
  • Many bumps clustered together

These problems may last from many weeks to many years.

Molluscum Contagiosum
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Diagnosis

The bumps on your skin point to molluscum contagiosum. A biopsy can rule out other causes. A skin sample is checked under a microscope.

Treatment

In most cases, molluscum contagiosum doesn’t need care. It will go away on its own within 6 to 9 months.

In others, the bumps may linger or spread. This can be more of a problem for people with HIV. Your doctor may remove the bumps. This will help lower the chances of spreading it on you or to other people.

Procedures may involve:

  • Cryotherapy—extreme cold removes the bumps
  • Curettage—cutting out the bumps
  • Laser surgery—use of steady or pulsed high intensity light
  • Placing chemicals on your skin to remove the bump

Prevention

To lower your chances of getting molluscum contagiosum, avoid contact with someone who has it.

If you have it, don’t:

  • Have contact with others.
  • Play sports that involve contact with others.
  • Share your items with others.
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org

American Sexual Health Association
http://www.ashasexualhealth.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
https://www.dermatology.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Molluscum. American Sexual Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/molluscum-contagiosum. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/molluscum-contagiosum. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116448/Molluscum-contagiosum. Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/viral-skin-diseases/molluscum-contagiosum. Updated October 2016. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD  Last Updated: 6/20/2018