Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus. The virus can be spread from:
- Direct skin to skin contact with an infected person
- Shared items, such as towels or wrestling mats
- One part of a person's body to another area
Factors that increase your risk of getting molluscum contagiosum include:
Weakened immune system, especially in people with AIDS or HIV
- Poor hygiene
- Overcrowded conditions
- Sexual contact
- Having other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis
Symptoms may include:
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- Small, dome-shaped bumps with dimpling in center
- Painless, but may be itchy or tender
- Appear translucent, pearly or flesh-colored at first then may turn gray and drain
- White or waxy substance in center of lesion
- Usually multiple lesions in groups
- Face, trunk, arms, and legs are common sites in children
- Genitals, abdomen, and inner thigh are common sites in adults
- Can last from several weeks to several years
Diagnosis is usually made based on the lesion appearance. Sometimes a biopsy will be taken to rule out other conditions. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of the area. The sample will be looked at under a microscope.
Molluscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own within six months to two years without any treatment. 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:
- Laser surgery
- Topical therapy
To reduce your chances of getting molluscum contagiosum, avoid any contact with an infected person.
If you are contagious, avoid any personal contact with others, contact sports, or sharing personal items.
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Stulberg DL, Hutchinson AG. Molluscum contagiosum and warts. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(6):1233-1240.
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.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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