What is molluscum contagiosum?
It is an infection of the skin caused by a pox
What does it look like?
The lesions resemble small pimples at first.
They are flesh-colored, pink, white, gray, and
waxy. They become smooth and doughnut-
shaped with a small central sunken area (core).
They are most often found on the trunk, arms,
legs, or face.
When sexually transmitted, lesions are most
often found on the outer area of the genitals,
lower abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. The
infected areas may become red as the body
fights off the virus.
How is it diagnosed?
It may be diagnosed by the appearance of the
lesions. Sometimes a skin biopsy is done to
confirm the diagnosis.
Who gets molluscum?
Molluscum is most often seen in children, but is
also often seen in sexually active young adults,
or less often in adults as a non-sexually
How is it spread?
Molluscum is spread by close physical contact
with a person who has it. It may take weeks to
months from the time of contact until the
infection grows large enough to see. Scratching
or other irritation causes the virus to spread from
one area of the body to another. Molluscum
may be spread from shared towels, pillows,
razors and other shared objects; but this is not
Avoid direct contact with skin lesions.
How long will it last?
Molluscum lesions most often go away on their
own. For people with normal immune systems,
if not treated, lesions may take many months to
years to go away. New lesions can appear
because the virus has spread from untreated
lesions. People with atopic dermatitis/eczema
seem to have more extensive lesions and a
longer period until resolution. People with
weakened immune systems, such as transplant
patients or people with AIDS, have a much
harder time controlling the spread of the lesions.
The lesions often last longer for people with
weaker immune systems.
Should it be treated?
There are different opinions on how to treat
molluscum. No treatment is perfect. Treatment
will get rid of the lesions, but not all of the virus.
Treatment can improve appearance and lessen
the risk of spreading molluscum to other areas of
the body and spreading it to other people.
How is molluscum treated?
Freezing with liquid nitrogen destroys individual
lesions. They can also be electrically burned
off, mechanically scraped off, or chemically
destroyed with acid treatment. Prescription
creams such as tretinoin or antiviral medicine
(Aldara®) may be ordered for you and may
Are there any problems caused by
If scratched, the bumps can become infected
with bacteria. This infection may need
If you have questions or concerns, please call
the provider who is treating you.
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this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
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