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Molluscum Contagiosum

Pronounced: mo-lus-kum kon-ta-je-o-sum

Definition

Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the skin.

Causes

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a specific virus. The virus can be spread from:

  • Direct skin to skin contact with an infected person
  • Shared items, such as towels or wrestling mats
  • One part of a person's body to another area
Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of getting molluscum contagiosum include:

  • Weakened immune system, especially in people with HIV infection
  • Poor hygiene
  • Overcrowded conditions
  • Sexual contact
  • Having other skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis
Symptoms

Molluscum contagiosum may cause:

  • Small, dome-shaped bumps with dimpling in center
  • Painless, but may be itchy or tender
  • Appear translucent, pearly or flesh-colored at first then may turn gray and drain
  • White or waxy substance in center of lesion
  • Usually multiple lesions in groups
  • Face, trunk, arms, and legs are common sites in children
  • Genitals, abdomen, and inner thigh are common sites in adults
  • Can last from several weeks to several years

Molluscum Contagiosum

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Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made based on the lesion appearance. Sometimes a biopsy will be taken to rule out other conditions. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of the area.

Treatment

Molluscum contagiosum usually goes away on its own within six months to two years without any treatment. For people with HIV infection, the lesions usually persist and spread indefinitely. Your doctor may recommend the removal of some lesions to prevent the spread of the infection or to avoid infecting others.

Lesion may be removed by one of the following:

  • Cryotherapy—freezing of the lesion
  • Curettage—cutting out lesion
  • Laser surgery—burning of the lesion
  • Topical therapy—destruction of the lesion with a variety of chemicals
Prevention

To reduce your chances of getting molluscum contagiosum, avoid any contact with an infected person.

If you are contagious, avoid any personal contact with others, contact sports, or sharing personal items.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology
http://www.aad.org

American Social Health Association
http://www.ashastd.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Dermatology Association
http://www.dermatology.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

Dohil MA, Lin P, et al. The epidemiology of molluscum contagiosum in children. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(1):47-54.

Hanson D. Diven DG. Molluscum contagiosum. Dermatology Online J. 2003;9(2):2.

Molluscum contagiosum. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/molloscum-contagiosum. Accessed May 22. 2014.

Molluscum contagiosum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 19, 2013. Accessed May 22, 2014.

Molluscum contagiosum: questions & answers. American Social Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/std-sti/molluscum-contagiosum.html. Accessed May 22, 2014.

Stulberg DL, Hutchinson AG. Molluscum contagiosum and warts. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(6):1233-1240.

Theos AU, Cummins R, et al. Effectiveness of imiquimod cream 5% for treating childhood molluscum contagiosum in a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Cutis. 2004;74(2):134-138,141-142.



Last reviewed May 2014 by Michael A Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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