What is molluscum contagiosum?
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 harmful.
What are the symptoms?
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.
How does molluscum contagiosum spread?
The virus 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 spreading:
- Try not to scratch.
- Put a piece of tape or a bandage over the bumps.
- Do not share towels or washcloths.
- If the bumps are on your face, don't shave.
- If the bumps are in your genital area, avoid sexual contact.
How is it diagnosed?
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 genital herpes.
How is it treated?
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.