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What is molluscum contagiosum?

Here’s everything you need to know about molluscum contagiosum, from its main symptoms, its causes and who’s most likely to catch it, to what it looks like and how your doctor can diagnose it. And don’t forget, if you’d like to know where to buy MolluDab®, you can do that here.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a relatively common viral infection of the skin. The virus is known as the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) and is part of the pox family of viruses. Sometimes referred to as water warts, the infection causes small firm bumps (mollusca) to appear on the skin.

The condition was discovered in the beginning of the 19th Century and occurs worldwide but is more prevalent in warm humid climates and in areas where people live closely together.

mollluscum contagiosum

Photomicrograph of mollluscum contagiosum

How long does it take for molluscum contagiosum to clear?

In many cases, molluscum contagiosum will go away on its own without treatment. However new growths may appear as old ones are clearing up, so it can take 12 to 18 months or longer to clear completely.

molluscum contagiosum papules

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The main symptoms of molluscum contagiosum are several small firm dome-shaped bumps on the skin with a small dimple in the middle.

  • They look like small raised blisters and are between two mm and six mm in diameter.
  • The bumps often have a depressed or wrinkled centre.
  • They will have a central core of yellowy, whitish waxy material.
  • They can be on their own but are often found grouped together.

The incubation period for molluscum contagiosum is two weeks to six months, lesions may not immediately be seen after contracting the virus. Molluscum bumps can appear anywhere on the body except the palms of hands and soles of the feet.

What does molluscum look like?

The bumps have a shiny or lustrous surface and are often between two mm and six mm in diameter however they can grow larger, up to 10mm to 20mm. There may only be one or two spots, usually fewer than 20, but they are often grouped together.

molluscum contagiosum on armRed molluscum contagiosum spots

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Your doctor usually can diagnose molluscum contagiosum just by looking at it. The molluscum spots have a very distinct appearance on the skin, but if a spot becomes inflamed, it can look like a boil.

If there’s any uncertainty about the diagnosis, then a skin scraping, or a biopsy can be carried out to confirm the diagnosis. If molluscum contagiosum is diagnosed, it will rule out other causes for the lesions, such as skin cancer, chickenpox, or warts.

Molluscum in children Molluscum in adults

AL/3775a/05.19/0.001. Date of preparation: May 2019