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.

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.
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 (10)

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.

Graphic content

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral infection in the genital area with numerous pink to skin-colored firm, small bumps.
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 very common viral infection of the skin that looks like small flesh-colored or pinkish, raised bumps. Sometimes the center of the bump has a dimple, and sometimes the bump leaks a white substance. The bumps tend to be painless and harmless; they are, however, contagious and can be spread to others and spread across the affected person’s own body by touching or scratching. In order to avoid spreading the infection, it is important not to pick at or scratch the bumps. It can be helpful to keep them covered; also avoid sharing intimate objects such as sheets, towels, and clothes.

Molluscum contagiosum do not need to be removed unless they are bothersome. A doctor can remove them one by one in the office. If left alone, they will go away on their own within months to a few years.

Who's At Risk?

Anyone of any age can develop molluscum contagiosum. Children tend to get lesions on their face, arms, and hands from normal childhood play while teens and adults tend to get them in genital regions from sexual contact. Anyone with an immunosuppressive disorder, such as HIV, may have much more trouble with molluscum contagiosum and may develop many, many lesions.

Signs & Symptoms

In adults, the genitals, stomach, buttocks, and inner thigh areas are more often affected as intimate contact with another is the usual source of infection. Men are more often affected than women. Adults with weak immune systems (such as those 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 spreading via self-inoculation. In people with a weak 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 the infection will go away on its own. In this case, care should be taken not to 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.