What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection. This skin condition is caused by a virus named  Molluscum contagiosum. It is characterized by small, benign, painless raised bumps on the upper layers of the skin. These are also called “water warts.”Treatment is not required in most cases, and the lesions may disappear on their own. They rarely leave scars. The duration of stay of the virus varies from each person. It may clear in two months or take four years. It may become difficult to treat if you have weak immune system.

You can be infected by the disease if you are in direct contact with the lesions of the infected person or by sharing their things like towel or clothing.

It commonly appears on the trunk of the body, arms, groin and legs. Children aged one to 11 years old, sexually active adults and those who have weak immune system are more prone to molluscum contagious.

Symptoms of Molluscum Contagiosum

Symptoms may not be visible up to six months from the day of you got the infection. The incubation of the virus takes two to seven weeks. The symptoms are the appearance of small lesions that may appear alone or in a group of many as 20 in different parts of the body. These symptoms are:

  • Small, dome-shaped and firm in the beginning
  • Smooth, waxy surface.
  • Flesh colored or pink or white in color
  • The presence of dimple in the center which may be filled with a thick, cheesy or waxy white substance.
  • Painless but may itch sometimes
  • May turn red as your immune system fights against the virus.
  • It may appear in other areas of the body as scratching and picking may spread the infection.

They may appear on these parts of your body:

  • Face
  • Trunk
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Groin
  • Genitals


Your doctor will diagnose the condition by asking you your medical history and by physical exam. He/she can carry out skin biopsy to confirm the viral infection. This diagnosis is helpful to distinguish molluscum contagiosum from other skin problems like genital warts, hives, herpes or folliculitis.

Causes of Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by DNA provirus called molluscum contagiosum. This virus is spread by direct contact with the infected person. The condition is spread by following ways:

    • By touching the lesions of an infected individual with molluscum contagiosum.
    • Children get the infection during normal play with other infected children.
    • Adults may get infected through sexual interaction.
    • You may also get affected by using things like towels, clothing, or other items that have been contaminated with the virus. So sharing these things with infected people should be avoided.
    • Contact sports that involve touching bare skin, such as wrestling or football can also infect you.
    • Sharing sports equipment such as baseball gloves, wrestlings mats or football helmets can also spread the disease.
    • Scratching or picking can spread the disease to other body parts.

Treatment of Molluscum Contagiosum

If you have a healthy immune system, then there is no need for treatment because the lesions will disappear on its own. Particularly in children, it is better not to treat them as treating them may cause more discomfort on them.

However, you may need treatment if you have following circumstances:

  • Large lesions present on your face and neck.
  • You have other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis.
  • You have seriously concerned about spreading the virus.

Your doctor may perform following treatments:

Topical Treatment – Your doctor may prescribe you topical creams. However, it is not sure whether which treatment will work better on the lesions. The acids or chemicals present in these creams inducing peeling of the top layer of the skin. These medications are:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Benzoyl peroxide.
  • Potassium hydroxide.
  • Iodine preparations.
  • Trichloroacetic acid
  • Topical podophyllotoxin cream, such as Condylox
  • Cantharidin (Cantharone) – It is obtained from the blister beetle.
  • Imiquimod cream (Aldara)

Cryotherapy – Your doctor uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the bumps.

Curettage – Your doctor may use a curette (a scoop like tool) to pierce the bump and scrape it off the skin.

Pulsed dye laser therapy – The laser therapy is used to destroy bumps.

Anesthesia may be required in some techniques that can be painful and cause scarring. Your doctor may call you for more than one session as treatment requires removing each bump.

Antiretroviral or anti-HIV medications are very helpful for people with HIV or who have weak immune system.

Some medications may cause the birth defects in newborns. So let your doctor know if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding.

Self-care measures to prevent the spread of molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum spreads by having direct skin to skin contact with an infected person. So to prevent the disease to spread, avoid touching the skin of an infected person. By taking these self-care measures, you can prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Always keep your hands clean. Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  • Avoid sharing personal things such as towels, clothing, hairbrushes or bar soaps.
  • Avoid using sports equipment that may have in direct contact with someone else bare skin such as helmets, wrestling mats.
  • Avoid touching or scratching or picking the bumps as they can be spread to other body parts.
  • Cover the bumps with a watertight bandage to avoid touching others your bumps and thus spreading the virus. You can uncover it when you won’t come in contact with other people to keep your skin healthy.
  • Avoid sexual contact if bumps are present in the genital area.
  • Let your child learn proper hand-washing techniques as the infection spread while children play together.
A Viral Skin Infection, “Molluscum Contagiosum”, Commonly Called “Water Warts”

One thought on “A Viral Skin Infection, “Molluscum Contagiosum”, Commonly Called “Water Warts”

  • July 6, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Children can have molluscum for a long time. Research undertaken by Johns Hopkins University Baltimore found 50% of children have molluscum for at least one year.

    A separate study of molluscum contagiosum in children and infants by Cardiff University Wales found:

    – the average length of molluscum infection is 13 months;
    – 30% of children suffer for 18 months;
    – 13% still have unresolved molluscum lesions at 24 months; and
    – molluscum infection is transmitted to other children in 41% of families.

    Several medical studies indicate that children prone to atopic dermatitis and eczema have more molluscum lesions that last longer. Other studies have shown an association with swimming and bath sharing and molluscum contagiosum.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *