Pronounced: mo-lus-kum kon-ta-je-o-sum
by Patricia Kellicker, BSN
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by the molluscum virus. It can start after you come in contact with the virus. You may come in contact with the virus by skin to skin contact with an infected person. The virus can also pass through shared items like towels or wrestling mats.
The virus can also spread from one part of a person's body to another area.
Risk Factors TOP
Skin to skin contact with an infected person is the main risk factor. Other risk factors include:
Skin lesions are the main symptom. Similar lesions may be caused by other health conditions. It is important that you see your doctor to determine the cause.
Molluscum contagiosum skin lesions usually have the following characteristics:
Diagnosis is usually made based on the lesion appearance. Sometimes a biopsy will be taken. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of the area. The sample will be looked at under a microscope.
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a doctor that specializes in skin conditions.
Molluscum Contagiosum usually resolves within six months to two years. For people with HIV, 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.
Treatment options include the following:
The lesions can be removed by scraping them off the surface of the skin.
Chemicals may be used to remove the lesions. Common chemical options include:
This method uses cold to freeze the lesions off of the skin. Liquid nitrogen may be used for this treatment.
A retinoid or imiquimod cream may be used separately or in combination. These creams gradually remove the lesions.
This disease is very contagious. Take the following measures to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus:
If you have the disease, reduce the risk of spread by:
American Academy of Dermatology
The American Academy of Family Physicians
American Social Health Association
Canadian Dermatology Association
American Academy of Dermatology. Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org.... Accessed October 7, 2012.
American Family Physician. Molluscum contagiosum and warts. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0315/p1233.html. Accessed October 7, 2012.
Molluscum contagiosum: questions & answers. American Social Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/std-sti/molluscum-contagiosum.html. Accessed October 7, 2012.
Dohil MA, Lin P, Lee J, Lucky AW, Paller AS, Eichenfield LF. The epidemiology of molluscum contagiosum in children. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(1):47-54.
Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated April 24, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2012.
Hanson D. Diven DG. Molluscum contagiosum. Dermatology Online Journal. Available at: http://dermatology-s10.cdlib.org/92/reviews/molluscum/diven.html. Accessed October 7, 2012.
Theos AU, Cummins R, Silverberg NB, Paller AS. 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.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 09/30/2012