What is Molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection that causes pearly or flesh-colored bumps. The bumps often have an indented center, which can be clear. The bumps are usually about the size of a pencil eraser, and aren’t painful or harmful.

Bumps caused by molluscum usually appear on the face, eyelids, genitals, or trunk of the body, and turn red as the body fights the virus.

Molluscum is spread through skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact or touching the bumps and then touching the skin. Even touching an object that has the virus on it – such as a cell phone or doorknob – can spread the infection from one part of the body to another, or from one person to another. The infection is contagious until the bumps are gone.

Bumps usually appear two to seven weeks after exposure, but can take as long as six months. Molluscum contagiosum is most common in children younger than age 12. In teens and adults, it is often spread through sexual contact.

Diagnosing molluscum

Molluscum can be diagnosed by a health care professional, who will examine the area and may take a sample of the bumps for testing. If there are bumps in an individual’s genital region, the doctor may also test for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Treatment molluscum

Since molluscum bumps often go away on their own within two to four months, healthy people may not need treatment. However, treatment for bumps in the genital area is recommended to prevent them from spreading.

Molluscum bumps can be removed through several treatment options, including freezing the bumps, scraping them off, putting a chemical on the bumps (such as cantharidin or potassium hydrochloride), or using liquids or creams (like those used to treat warts).

Preventing molluscum

To prevent molluscum from spreading, don’t share towels or washcloths, and don’t shave if the bumps are on your face. Put a bandage over the bumps until they heal and avoid scratching. If the bumps are located in the genital area, do not have sex until they are gone.