Condition 101 About Molluscum Contagiosum

What is the definition of Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that causes raised, pearl-like papules or nodules on the skin.

What are the causes for Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus that is a member of the poxvirus family. You can get the infection in different ways.

This is a common infection in children and occurs when a child comes into direct contact with a skin lesion or an object that has the virus on it. (A skin lesion is an abnormal area of skin.) The infection is most often seen on the face, neck, armpit, arms, and hands. However, it can occur anywhere on the body, except it is rarely seen on the palms and soles.

The virus can spread through contact with contaminated objects, such as towels, clothing, or toys.

The virus also spreads by sexual contact. Early lesions on the genitals may be mistaken for herpes or warts. Unlike herpes, these lesions are painless.

Persons with a weakened immune system (due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS) or severe eczema may have a rapidly spreading case of molluscum contagiosum.

What are the symptoms for Molluscum Contagiosum?

The infection on the skin begins as a small, painless papule, or bump. It may become raised to a pearly, flesh-colored nodule. The papule often has a dimple in the center. Scratching or other irritation causes the virus to spread in a line or in groups, called crops.

The papules are about 2 to 5 millimeters wide. Usually, there is no inflammation (swelling and redness) and no redness unless they have been irritated by rubbing or scratching.

In adults, the lesions are commonly seen on the genitals, abdomen, and inner thigh.

What are the current treatments for Molluscum Contagiosum?

In people with a healthy immune system, the disorder usually goes away on its own over months to years. But the lesions can spread before they go away. Although it's not necessary for a child to be treated, schools or daycare centers may ask parents that the child be treated to prevent spread to other children.

Individual lesions may be removed with minor surgery. This is done by scraping, de-coring, freezing, or through needle electrosurgery. Laser treatment may also be used. Surgical removal of individual lesions may sometimes result in scarring.

Medicines, such as salicylic acid preparations used to remove warts, may be helpful. Cantharidin is the most common solution used to treat the lesions in the provider's office. Tretinoin cream or imiquimod cream may also be prescribed.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum lesions may persist from a few months to a few years. They eventually disappear without scarring, unless there has been excessive scratching, which may leave marks.

The disorder may persist in people with a weakened immune system.

What are the possible complications for Molluscum Contagiosum?

Problems that can occur include any of the following:

  • Persistence, spread, or recurrence of lesions
  • Secondary bacterial skin infections (rare)

When should I contact a medical professional for Molluscum Contagiosum?

Call for an appointment with your provider if:

  • You have a skin problem that looks like molluscum contagiosum
  • Molluscum contagiosum lesions persist or spread, or if new symptoms appear 

How do I prevent Molluscum Contagiosum?

Avoid direct contact with the skin lesions of people who have molluscum contagiosum. Do not share towels or other personal items, such as razors and make-up, with other people.

Male and female condoms can't fully protect you from getting molluscum contagiosum from a partner, as the virus can be on areas not covered by the condom. Even so, condoms should still be used every time the disease status of a sexual partner is unknown. Condoms reduce your chances of getting or spreading molluscum contagiosum and other STDs.



Coulson IH, Ahad T. Molluscum contagiosum. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson IH, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 155.

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Viral diseases. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2020:chap 19.

Top Global Doctors For Molluscum Contagiosum

Latest Advances On Molluscum Contagiosum

  • Condition: Hypertrophic Genital Herpes and HIV
  • Journal: International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases
  • Treatment Used: Imiquimod
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
The study researched the outcomes of Imiquimod in a woman with hypertrophic genital herpes and HIV.
  • Condition: Molluscum contagiosum
  • Journal: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
  • Treatment Used: Investigational nitric oxide-releasing topical gel
  • Number of Patients: 256
  • Published —
The study researched the use of investigational nitric oxide-releasing topical gel in patients with molluscum contagiosum.

Clinical Trials For Molluscum Contagiosum

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Drug
  • Participants: 35
  • Start Date: June 15, 2020
The Effectiveness of Oral Acyclovir in the Treatment of Molluscum Contagiosum in Children