Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Molluscum Contagiosum

Pronounced: mo-lus-kum kon-ta-je-o-sum


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.

American Academy of Dermatology

American Sexual Health Association


Canadian Dermatology Association

Public Health Agency of Canada


Molluscum. American Sexual Health Association website. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed June 20, 2018.

Molluscum contagiosum. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated October 2016. Accessed June 20, 2018.

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