Molluscum Contagiosum: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

picture of Molluscum Contagiosum

What is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection that is caused by a virus. The virus, called the molluscum virus, produces benign raised lesions, or bumps, on the upper layers of your skin.

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a viral infection of the skin or occasionally of the mucous membranes, sometimes called water warts.

Molluscum contagiosum is a common wart-like viral skin infection. For most children, the rash is no big deal and goes away on its own over time. Is a common and often harmless skin condition that is caused by a virus.  It is a chronic infection and lesions may persist from a few months to a few years. However, most cases resolve in six to nine months.

Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum?

Common locations for the molluscum contagiosum papules are on the face, trunk, and limbs of children and on the genitals, abdomens, and inner thighs of adults. The condition usually results in papules that:

  • Are generally painless, but can itch
  • Are small (2 to 5 millimeter diameter)
  • Have a dimple in the center
  • Are initially firm, dome-shaped, and flesh-colored
  • Become softer with time
  • May turn red and drain over time
  • Have a central core of white, waxy material

Molluscum contagiosum usually disappears spontaneously over a period of months to years in people who have normal immune systems. In people who have AIDS or other conditions that affect the immune system, the lesions associated with molluscum contagiosum can be extensive and especially chronic.

Causes of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus (the molluscum contagiosum virus) that is part of the pox virus family. The virus is contagious through direct contact and is more common in children. However, the virus also can be spread by sexual contact and can occur in people with compromised immune systems. Molluscum contagiosum can spread on a single individual through scratching and rubbing.

Diagnosing Molluscum Contagiosum

Diagnosis of molluscum contagiosum is based on the distinctive appearance of the lesion. If the diagnosis is in question, a doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a skin biopsy the removal of a portion of skin for closer examination. If there is any concern about related health problems, a doctor can check for underlying disorders.

Treatment for Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is usually self-limited, so treatment is not always necessary. However, individual lesions may be removed by scraping or freezing. Topical medications, such as those used to remove warts, may also be helpful in lesion removal.

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