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Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that causes small pearly or
flesh-colored bumps. The bumps may be clear, and the center often is indented.
The infection is caused by a virus. The virus is easily spread but is not
The bumps are round with a dimple in the center. They are a little smaller in size than the eraser on the end of a pencil. The bumps don't cause pain. They may
appear alone or in groups. They most often appear on the trunk, face, eyelids,
or genital area. The
bumps may become inflamed and turn red as your body fights the virus.
People who have a
weakened immune system may have dozens of larger bumps. These may need special treatment.
commonly spreads through skin-to-skin contact. This includes sexual contact or
touching the bumps and then touching the skin. Touching an object that has the
virus on it, such as a towel, also can spread the infection. The virus can
spread from one part of the body to another. Or it can spread to other people,
such as among children at day care or school. The infection is contagious until
the bumps are gone.
The time from exposure to the virus until the bumps appear usually is 2
to 7 weeks, but it can take up to 6 months.1
To prevent molluscum contagiosum from
Your doctor will do a
physical exam and may take a sample of the bumps for testing. If you have bumps
in your genital area, your doctor may check for other
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as
In most cases, molluscum contagiosum doesn't need to be treated. The bumps usually go away on their own in 6 to 9 months. But in some cases, they may last much longer—sometimes even for years.
Doctors usually recommend treatment for these bumps in the genital area to prevent them from spreading.
If you need treatment, your choices may
Children may not need treatment, because molluscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own. But if your child needs treatment, talk to your child's doctor about how to prevent pain and scarring.
Molluscum contagiosum is most common in children, especially those younger than age 12. In teens and
young adults, it usually is a sexually transmitted infection. But wrestlers,
swimmers, gymnasts, massage therapists, and people who use steam rooms and
saunas also can get it.
Molluscum contagiosum is more common in
warm, humid climates with crowded living conditions.
Learning about molluscum contagiosum:
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Molluscum contagiosum. In LK Pickering et al., eds., Red Book: 2009 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 28th ed., pp. 466–467. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Other Works Consulted
Gordon PM, Benton EC (2010). Molluscum contagiosum. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 442–445. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
Habif TP (2010). Sexually transmitted viral infections. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 419–453. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
Habif TP (2010). Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In Clinical Dermatology, A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 454–490. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
Habif TP, et al. (2011). Herpes simplex section of Viral infections. In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 224–229. Edinburgh: Saunders.
Piggott C, et al. (2012). Poxvirus infections. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2402–2420. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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