Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is the name of a pox virus that causes a very common skin infection of the same name in children and adults. Any part of the body can be affected and it can spread by direct skin-to-skin contact or by handling objects with the virus on it, such as used towels, clothing or infected toys.  It can also spread with through contact sports and sexual contact in adults.

What are the symptoms?

Molluscum presents as small, skin-colored to white dome-shaped bumps with a dimple in the center, usually in a group or line. The bumps can be as tiny as pinhead, and as big as pencil top eraser (2 to 5 millimeters). They can be bigger in patients with weakened immune system or those with HIV/AIDS. They usually do not hurt, and usually do not itch.


●The bumps can appear anywhere on the body except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Skin infection with molluscum contagiosum usually resolves on its own without complications in months to years. Treatment is sought for cosmetic reasons and to prevent spread of the infection. Precautions can be taken to prevent the spread:

  • Avoid scratching or picking at lesions.

  • Cover the bumps with a piece of tape or bandage.

  • Do not share washcloths, towels, or clothing.

  • Clean any toys or objects that have been handled by an infected individual.

  • If the bumps are on the face or legs, do not shave. Avoid shaving until all lesions have resolved completely.

  • If the bumps are on the genital area, avoid sexual contact until all lesions have resolved completely.

  • Seek early treatment.


Lesions may last for several months and gradually resolve on their own. However, because patients often spread the lesions faster than they heal, it’s best to seek treatment early. Common treatment options include:

  • Cryotherapy (Cryosurgery): Very common treatment in which Liquid Nitrogen is used to “freeze” and destroy affected skin. Treatment results in blisters which gradually crust and heal in 2-3 weeks.

  • Cantharidin: Chemical derived from a type of beetle which is applied to the skin and results in blistering and destruction of the affected area. Similar to cryotherapy, blisters gradually crust and heal in 2-3 weeks.

  • Electrosurgery: Electrical current is used to burn the lesion.

  • Imiquimod cream: A topical cream that helps the body’s immune system fight the molluscum virus. Side effect incudes inflammation and irritation of the skin.

  • Salicylic acid: Over-the-counter and prescription-strength salicylic acid preparations can be applied directly to lesions which cause resolution and peeling of the lesion. Often requires multiple treatments.


Our dermatologist can help evaluate your condition and determine the best treatment option for you.