The lesions average 2mm to 5mm in size and are usually painless but may become itchy, inflamed, red and swollen. The papules are usually small, raised and usually white, pink or flesh-coloured with a central depression. When the core is expressed it produces a white, cheesy material. The patient does not usually experience systemic symptoms, such as fever, nausea, or malaise1.
Parents may report recent exposure to other children affected with molluscum contagiosum at school, sharing toys or public facilities such as swimming pools. Adults can acquire molluscum contagiosum as an STI through sexual contact.
Molluscum contagiosum lesions can be classified in one of three ways1:
- The commonly seen skin lesions found largely on the faces, trunks, and limbs of children.
- The sexually transmitted lesions found on the abdomen, inner thighs and genitals of sexually active adults.
- The diffuse and recalcitrant eruptions of patients with AIDS or other immunosuppressive disorders.
Molluscum contagiosum is a self-limiting infection which typically resolves itself within 6 – 12 months but may take as long as 4 years. However, certain cases can take far longer to resolve, and patients are often highly embarrassed about their condition2.
Diagnosing molluscum contagiosum
Diagnosis is predominately clinical on the basis of characteristic lesions (presenting as smooth-faced, firm, dome-shaped papules with central umbilication). A biopsy is occasionally taken when diagnosing atopic infections2.