Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that causes one or many raised, pearl-like bumps (papules) on your skin. Papules may persist from a few months to a few years. The condition easily spreads (contagious). Treatment helps the infection go away but isn’t always necessary, as it can also go away on its own.
Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by a virus. The infection creates small, raised bumps on your skin that have the appearance of a pearl. These bumps are usually white but can match your natural skin tone or appear pink to purple. Bumps from the infection can form anywhere on your skin but it’s most common on your face, neck, arms, legs or genitals.
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Yes, molluscum contagiosum is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The virus that causes the condition can spread through close personal contact, which includes sexual contact. Symptoms can form on your genitals.
Molluscum contagiosum can affect anyone at any age. It’s most common among children under 10 years. You could be at an increased risk if you:
Molluscum contagiosum is common. The exact rate of occurrence is unknown, as the condition resolves on its own.
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection caused by a virus. The virus (poxvirus) spreads from person to person through physical contact or contaminated surfaces or objects. This infection begins with a single bump that can spread and increase in number when you itch your skin. These bumps can be bothersome, sore, swollen and itchy. The condition resolves on its own within six to 12 months and usually doesn’t scar your skin.
Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum range from mild to severe and include:
Scratching the papule on your skin causes it to spread. This causes:
Among people who have eczema, AIDS or other conditions that affect their immune system, the lesions associated with molluscum contagiosum can grow larger than 5 mm (giant molluscum contagiosum).
Papules from a molluscum contagiosum infection can form anywhere on your body but are most common on your:
The molluscum contagiosum virus, which is a virus of the poxvirus family, causes molluscum contagiosum. When this virus enters your body, bumps or spots (papules) appear on your skin. These papules can spread to other areas of your skin and other people (contagious).
Yes, molluscum contagiosum is contagious. The virus that causes this infection spreads through:
The exact time that you’re contagious is unknown, but studies suggest you could be contagious and spread the virus until the papules leave your skin.
A healthcare provider will diagnose the molluscum contagiosum infection after performing a physical exam and asking questions to understand more about your symptoms. Your provider will also take a complete medical history. The appearance of the bump(s) or papule(s) on your skin will lead to a diagnosis.
A skin biopsy can help confirm a diagnosis, where your provider will remove a small sample of the papule from your skin to examine it under a microscope.
Treatment for molluscum contagiosum isn’t necessary, as the infection can clear up on its own.
For children, people with a weakened immune system or people who have symptoms that cause pain and discomfort, treatment could include:
Removal of the papules could cause scarring. There could be side effects or reactions to medicines that your healthcare provider prescribes. Make sure you tell your provider all of the medicines you currently take to avoid interactions with new medicine. Talk to your provider about the side effects of the medicine they recommend.
Without treatment, the papules can go away on their own in six to 12 months, but some cases can take up to a few years to go away completely. Treatment can reduce your symptoms, especially pain and itching, and can speed up your healing time.
You can help prevent this condition by:
Molluscum contagiosum can clear up on its own, but treatment reduces your infection time and decreases the spread of the infection to other parts of your skin. Your child’s provider might recommend treatment if your toddler is in daycare or school where they have close contact with others to prevent the spread of the infection.
During your infection, try not to scratch the papules on your skin. They can break open and you’re at risk of getting a bacterial infection. If your skin changes color and becomes puffy (swells), painful or oozes a yellow fluid, contact your provider.
A molluscum contagiosum infection can last several months to several years. Treatment decreases how long you’ll have the infection. Without treatment, the infection can go away on its own in six months to one year. For people with compromised immune systems, the condition could take a few years to clear up from your skin.
Visit your healthcare provider if:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious infection that easily spreads on your skin and to others with close contact. Take steps to protect yourself by not scratching your skin and by visiting a healthcare provider for treatment. Sanitize frequently used objects or surfaces if someone in your household has the infection and avoid sharing clothing and towels until their infection goes away.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/30/2023.
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