Molluscum contagiosum - including symptoms, treatment and prevention

Molluscum contagiosusm is a common skin infection caused by the molluscipoxvirus.

How molluscum contagiosum is spread

The virus is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact where there are minor breaks in the skin and is most common in children. The virus can also be transmitted sexually when it affects the genital area.

Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum

The virus causes small, usually 2 to 5 mm, painless, pink or pearly white lumps on the skin. The top of the lump is indented and contains a white core. The infection is not serious, as it only affects the skin and will disappear without treatment although this may take several months. Individual lumps often disappear after about 2 months, but often there will be more than one lump and they will not all disappear until 6 to 9 months have passed.

There are no long-term ill effects following molluscum contagiosum. People who are immune suppressed may have more lesions (lumps) and these may take longer to clear up.

Diagnosis of molluscum contagiosum

Diagnosis is made by examination of the skin and can be confirmed by microscopic examination of the core of the lump, but this is not usually necessary.

Incubation period

(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)

2 to 7 weeks, sometimes longer.

Infectious period

(time during which an infected person can infect others)

As long as the lumps are present. This may be for several months.

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum

Lumps will disappear without treatment, although this may take several months Cryotherapy (freezing) may occasionally be used for cosmetic reasons.

Prevention of molluscum contagiosum

  • Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school or work is not necessary.
  • Wash hands after any contact with the lumps.
  • Covering lumps is not necessary
  • Do not share towels.

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