Health Library

Health Library

Molluscum Contagiosum

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral disease of the skin that causes small pink or skin-colored bumps on the skin. It is not harmful and usually does not have any other symptoms. The virus is inside the bumps and is mildly contagious. These bumps usually clear over an extended period of time.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus called the poxvirus. It is most common in children and adolescents, although it can affect adults. The virus usually is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. People with weakened immune systems, young children, and people living in warm, humid climates are more susceptible to molluscum contagiosum.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The bumps are small and are usually pink or skin-colored. Eventually, the bumps tend to develop a small sunken center. The lesions can occur alone or in groups or clusters. They are not harmful, but may cause some cosmetic concern for the individual if they appear on the face or other visible areas.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination. The lesions are unique and are usually diagnosed on physical examination. Additional tests are not routinely ordered.

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum

Specific treatment for molluscum contagiosum will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

In most cases, the lesions will heal without treatment over a period of six to 12 months. The virus can last up to four years and may leave scars. The best way to avoid this disease is by following good hygiene habits. For example, do not pick or scratch your skin (or someone else's). Always practice good handwashing hygiene. Additional treatment options may include:

  • Removal of the lesions, by using cryotherapy (freezing them off) or lasers 

  • Use of topical medications (to speed resolution of the lesions)

Molluscum Contagiosum - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Marcellin, Lindsey, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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