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Molluscum Contagiosum

Pronounced: mo-lus-kum kon-ta-je-o-sum


Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin.


Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a specific 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
Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of getting molluscum contagiosum include:

  • Weakened immune system, especially in people with HIV infection
  • Poor hygiene
  • Overcrowded conditions
  • Sexual contact
  • Having other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis

Molluscum contagiosum usually affects the face, trunk, arms, and legs of children. The genitals, abdomen, and inner thighs are common sites in adults.

Symptoms may include:

  • Small, dome-shaped bumps with dimpling in center
  • Itching and tenderness
  • Translucent, pearly, or flesh-colored bumps that may turn gray and drain
  • White or waxy substance in the center of lesion
  • Multiple lesions in groups

Symptoms may last from several weeks to several years.

Molluscum Contagiosum


Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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.


Molluscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own within 6 months to 2 years without any treatment. For people with HIV infection, 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.

Lesion may be removed by one of the following:

  • Cryotherapy—freezing of the lesion
  • Curettage—cutting out lesion
  • Laser surgery—steady or pulsed high intensity light
  • Topical therapy—destruction of the lesion with a variety of chemicals

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.


American Academy of Dermatology

American Social Health Association


Canadian Dermatology Association

Public Health Agency of Canada


Dohil MA, Lin P, et al. The epidemiology of molluscum contagiosum in children. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(1):47-54.

Hanson D. Diven DG. Molluscum contagiosum. Dermatology Online J. 2003;9(2):2.

Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed June 4, 2015.

Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 18, 2015. Accessed June 4, 2015.

Molluscum contagiosum. American Social Health Association website. Available at: Accessed June 4, 2015.

Stulberg DL, Hutchinson AG. Molluscum contagiosum and warts. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(6):1233-1240.

Theos AU, Cummins R, et al. Effectiveness of imiquimod cream 5% for treating childhood molluscum contagiosum in a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Cutis. 2004;74(2):134-138,141-142.

Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael A Woods, 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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