Molluscum Contagiosum: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection of the skin. The infection may appear as firm, round, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. The infection is contagious because it can quickly spread to the surrounding skin if the bumps are scratched or injured. Molluscum contagiosum also spreads through person-to-person contact and through contact with infected objects.

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Molluscum contagiosum mostly affects children, but it can equally affect adults, especially those with weakened immune systems. Molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is seen as a sexually transmitted infection.

Molluscum contagiosum bumps usually disappear within a year, even without treatment but they can also be removed.


Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include:

  • Raised, round and flesh colored bumps
  • Small bumps, typically under about 1/4 inch in diameter
  • Bumps typically have a small indentation at the top near the center
  • Red and inflamed bumps that may itch
  • Bumps can be removed by scratching or rubbing, which can spread the virus to adjacent skin
  • Bumps usually appear on the neck, face, arms, armpits, and tops of the hands in children
  • If the infection is transmitted sexually, bumps may appear on the genitals, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect you or your child has molluscum contagiosum, consult your primary care doctor.


The virus that causes molluscum contagiosum can spreads easily through:

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Contact with contaminated objects, such as towels
  • Sexual intercourse with an affected partner
  • Scratching or rubbing the bumps, which spreads the virus to nearby skin

Risk factors and Complications

People with weakened immune systems are more prone to molluscum contagiosum infections.

The skin around the bumps may become red and inflamed and these bumps can become infected if scratched. Conjuctivitis may develop if bumps appear on the eyelids.


To help prevent the spread of mulluscum contagiosum:

  • Keep your hands clean to help prevent spreading the virus.
  • Avoid touching or shaving over the infected areas.
  • Avoid sharing or borrowing personal items like clothing, towels, hairbrushes or others.
  • Don’t engage in sexual intercourse if you have molluscum contagiosum on or near your genitals. Wait until the bumps are treated and have completely disappeared.
  • Cover the bumps with watertight bandage when swimming.


Apart from examining the bumps closely, your doctor may want to properly confirm molluscum contagiosum diagnosis by taking skin scrapings from the infected area and viewing them under a microscope.


Molluscum contagiosum usually resolve on its own without treatment in 6 to 12 months. However, it’s possible to continue developing bumps for up to five years. Once all of your bumps are gone, you’re no longer contagious.

In adults, doctors may recommend that the lesions be removed before they disappear on their own, since they are extremely contagious. Treatments for molluscum contagiosum can be painful, so an anesthetic might be administered earlier to ease pains. Your doctor may suggest freezing or scraping the bumps. In some cases, a medicine that causes blisters (cantharidin), which lift off the bumps can be administered.

Sources:,, children’

Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.


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