Learn how to prevent and treat this common skin infection that affects people of all ages.
Molluscum contagiosum (mo-LUS-kum kun-tay-jee-OH-sum) is a fairly common skin infection caused by a virus. It causes round, firm, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. If the bumps are scratched or injured, the infection can spread to nearby skin. Molluscum contagiosum also spreads through person-to-person contact and contact with infected objects.
Though most common in children, molluscum contagiosum can affect adults as well — particularly those with weakened immune systems. Adults with a healthy immune system can develop molluscum contagiosum from sexual activity with an infected partner.
Left untreated, the bumps usually disappear in 6 months to 2 years.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin infection that results in raised, round, skin-colored bumps with a dent or dot at the top. These bumps can take on a pink color.
Molluscum contagiosum signs and symptoms include:
If you suspect you or your child has molluscum contagiosum, contact your health care provider.
The virus that causes molluscum contagiosum spreads easily through:
The bumps and the skin around them may become inflamed. This is thought to be an immune system response to the infection. If scratched, these bumps can become infected and heal with scarring. If sores appear on the eyelids, pink eye (conjunctivitis) can develop.
To help prevent the spread of the virus:
Health care providers usually can diagnose molluscum contagiosum just by looking at it. If there's any doubt, they may take skin scrapings from the infected area and view them under a microscope.
Molluscum contagiosum usually gets better without treatment in 6 months to 2 years. Once the bumps are gone, you're no longer contagious. After healing, it's possible to become reinfected with the virus.
For severe or widespread disease, your health care provider might refer you to a specialist in skin conditions (dermatologist) to discuss options for removing the bumps.
Treatment might involve one or a combination of the following:
Some procedures can be painful, so your health care provider may numb your skin first. Possible side effects of treatment are infection and scarring.
You'll likely start by visiting your or your child's health care provider. Or you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating skin conditions (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your health care provider.
Before your appointment, write a list that answers the following questions:
Your health care provider may ask: