Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a common poxvirus. Associated with the virus, firm, skin-colored, pus-filled lesions with a central depression are typically present.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a common poxvirus. Associated with the virus, firm, skin-colored, pus-filled lesions with a central depression are typically present.
Molluscum contagiosum is a benign, poxvirus infection that typically has a central depression.
Molluscum contagiosum is a benign, poxvirus infection that typically has a central depression.
When seen in the genital region of an adult, molluscum transmission is usually due to intimate contact.
When seen in the genital region of an adult, molluscum transmission is usually due to intimate contact.
As displayed in this image, molluscum appear smooth and can be either skin-colored or, if inflamed, pink.
As displayed in this image, molluscum appear smooth and can be either skin-colored or, if inflamed, pink.
This image displays a molluscum on the face.
This image displays a molluscum on the face.

Graphic content

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Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection in the genital area with numerous pink to skin-colored firm, small bumps.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection in the genital area with numerous pink to skin-colored firm, small bumps.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
Molluscum contagiosum is a superficial poxvirus infection of the skin with lesions that can vary in size but are typically larger than a dime in diameter.
Molluscum contagiosum is a superficial poxvirus infection of the skin with lesions that can vary in size but are typically larger than a dime in diameter.
This image displays molluscum lesions that are smooth, skin-colored, and scattered.
This image displays molluscum lesions that are smooth, skin-colored, and scattered.

Graphic content

Please click to view.

This image displays a close-up of a molluscum lesion on the shaft of the penis.
This image displays a close-up of a molluscum lesion on the shaft of the penis.

Graphic content

Please click to view.

This image displays smooth, skin-colored lesions on the shaft of the penis typical of molluscum.
This image displays smooth, skin-colored lesions on the shaft of the penis typical of molluscum.
This close-up image displays smooth, skin-colored bumps with a slight depression at the center, typical of molluscum.
This close-up image displays smooth, skin-colored bumps with a slight depression at the center, typical of molluscum.

Images of Molluscum Contagiosum (13)

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a common poxvirus. Associated with the virus, firm, skin-colored, pus-filled lesions with a central depression are typically present.
Molluscum contagiosum is a benign, poxvirus infection that typically has a central depression.
When seen in the genital region of an adult, molluscum transmission is usually due to intimate contact.
As displayed in this image, molluscum appear smooth and can be either skin-colored or, if inflamed, pink.
This image displays a molluscum on the face.

Graphic content

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection in the genital area with numerous pink to skin-colored firm, small bumps.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
This image displays multiple large molluscum lesions on an immunocompromised patient.
Molluscum contagiosum is a superficial poxvirus infection of the skin with lesions that can vary in size but are typically larger than a dime in diameter.
This image displays molluscum lesions that are smooth, skin-colored, and scattered.

Graphic content

This image displays a close-up of a molluscum lesion on the shaft of the penis.

Graphic content

This image displays smooth, skin-colored lesions on the shaft of the penis typical of molluscum.
This close-up image displays smooth, skin-colored bumps with a slight depression at the center, typical of molluscum.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common painless and usually harmless viral infection of the skin. Although it is painless and usually goes away after several months, some cases can last a few years. Molluscum can spread to surrounding skin by scratching or rubbing and can spread to others by skin-to-skin contact or handling contaminated objects such as towels, toys, and clothing. Poor hygiene and warm, moist climates encourage the spread of molluscum. Use of public or school swimming pools is associated with childhood infections.

Who's At Risk?

Adults and teens are more often infected by molluscum through sexual contact and tend to have genital lesions. Children from age 1–5 are most commonly affected with lesions appearing on the face, neck, arms, armpits, and hands (but usually not the palms). Patients with eczema may be more severely affected by molluscum.

Signs & Symptoms

In adults, the genital, stomach, buttock, and inner thigh areas are more often affected as intimate contact with another is the typical source of infection. Men are more often affected than women. Adults with defective immune systems (such as with HIV) may have severe, extensive infection.

One or more small (1–5 mm) pink, white, or skin-colored, smooth, dome-shaped bumps, often with a tiny dot or depression in the center, occur in clusters and sometimes in a straight line from scratching and self-inoculation. In patients with a defective immune system, bumps can be larger than a nickel.

  • Mild – under 10 spots
  • Moderate – 10–50 spots
  • Severe – over 50 spots

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Self-Care Guidelines

Treatment in mild infections is often not required, as molluscum infections goes away on their own. Care should be taken to not scratch or shave the areas. Keep the area covered to avoid transmission of the virus, and avoid sharing clothing, towels, and beds with others. Over-the-counter medications used to treat warts (with salicylic acid) may be helpful in removing the bumps, although these treatments can also be irritating.

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Treatments

  • Removal with freezing (cryosurgery), scraping (curettage), burning (electrocautery), or a laser
  • Application of chemicals (a strong acid or alkali) or Cantharone (an extract from a blister beetle)
  • Prescription of a cream with either tretinoin (derived from vitamin A) or imiquimod (a prescription product also used to treat warts, another type of viral infection)

Visit Urgency

When there is a moderate or severe infection and there is a concern of spread or concern about appearance, seek medical care.

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References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.208, 1266-1267. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.1861, 2114-2116, 2332. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.