Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral skin infection that causes firm, round, painless bumps on the skin. These bumps range in size from a tiny pinhead to a pencil eraser (about 6 mm) in diameter. Molluscum contagiosum bumps usually disappear on their own within one year, although various treatment options can be used to remove them. If scratched or injured, molluscum contagiosum bumps can cause the infection to spread.

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Molluscum contagiosum causes the following symptoms:

  • Small bumps on the skin (less than 6 mm in diameter)
  • Bumps are raised, round, and skin colored
  • Bumps have a characteristic indentation or dimple in the center
  • Affected skin may become red, inflamed, or itchy
  • Bumps can be scratched off, which can spread the virus to adjacent skin
  • Bumps usually appear on the face, neck, hands, armpits, or arms
  • Bumps may appear on the genitals, thighs, or lower abdomen if spread through sexual interaction


Molluscum contagiosum is a virus and spreads through:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with an infected person (including sexual contact)
  • Contact with towels or other contaminated objects
  • Scratching or rubbing the bumps

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention tips include the following:

  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid touching the bumps
  • Cover the bumps with clothing
  • Don’t share personal items such as clothing, towels, and hairbrushes
  • Avoid sexual contact

Molluscum contagiosum usually resolves without treatment within 6 to 12 months. Once the bumps are gone, you are no longer contagious. However, you may continue to develop bumps for up to 5 years. Your doctor may recommend removing the lesions because they are so contagious. Treatment options for the removal of molluscum contagiosum include medications, scraping, and cryotherapy (freezing).