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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What are molluscum contagiosum symptoms and signs?

The first signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum are small painless papules (raised bumps or lumps) on the skin. It often appears as a raised, pearly pinkish nodule or redness on the skin; some nodules contain a dimple in the center. Most lesions are small, about 2-5 mm in diameter. Inside the nodule, sometimes there is a cheesy whitish core. The lesions may become itchy, sore, and reddened if scratched. The lesions can appear anywhere on the body (face, mouth, genital area, penis, or vagina, for example). The skin lesions may go through three stages; the first is a small whitish and/or reddish bump on the skin. Over a few weeks, the bumps can enlarge to about 2-5 mm with a whitish pus head that develops into a small crater when it bursts (stage 2; patients are advised not to attempt "popping" these pus-containing bumps or pimples). Stage 3 is when the burst craters develop into reddish sores that can be infected with other organisms (secondary infections).

How do physicians diagnose molluscum contagiosum?

Presumptive diagnosis is based on the person's history and physical exam. A skin biopsy or tissue scraping that shows the viral infection is a definitive diagnosis usually made by a pathologist. This definitive diagnosis is sometimes helpful to distinguish molluscum contagiosum from other skin problems like herpes, genital warts (HPV), hives, or folliculitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/8/2016
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