Molluscum Contagiosum

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Molluscum Contagiosum Symptoms and Signs

Bumps on the Skin

People often describe localized swollen areas on, or under, the skin as lumps or bumps. While bumps on, or under, the skin may result from conditions that give rise to a skin rash, many other conditions can result in solitary raised lumps on the skin. Infections, tumors, and the body's response to trauma or injury can all lead to lumps or bumps that appear to be located on or underneath the skin.

Picture of molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum facts

  • A viral infection of the skin causes molluscum contagiosum, a mild skin disease.
  • Risk factors include direct and indirect contact with an infected person's skin.
  • Symptoms include painless pinkish raised nodules or bumps on the skin.
  • A doctor's physical exam presumptively diagnoses most molluscum contagiosum infections; tissue biopsy offers a definitive diagnosis.
  • Molluscum contagiosum often requires no treatment as nodules resolve in about six to 12 months; however, cryotherapy (freezing), curettage (cutting out the lesions), laser therapy, or chemical treatments also may treat the nodules.
  • There are many home treatments available, but people should check with their doctor before using these treatments.
  • The prognosis of most molluscum contagiosum infections is excellent, but people with immune compromise have a more guarded prognosis.
  • There is no commercially available vaccine for molluscum contagiosum infections, but people can reduce their chances of getting the disease by avoiding direct and indirect skin contact with infected people.

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Pictures of molluscum contagiosum
Pictures of molluscum contagiosum; SOURCE: CDC

Molluscum contagiosum is a mild skin disease caused by a virus of the poxvirus type (molluscum contagiosum virus) that causes painless small bumps on the skin. The disease occurs worldwide but is more prevalent in warm, humid climates. The disease is usually not serious and in most people resolves in about six to 12 months without treatment. It is a common infection in children; direct person-to-person contact, sexual contact, and contaminated items like clothing, towels, or other objects may transmit the infection. Some consider it to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), but many others simply consider it to be a skin disease that is contagious by any skin-to-skin and indirect incidental contact with the infecting virus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/8/2016
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