Molluscum contagiosum is a relatively common viral infection of the skin that results in round, firm, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser.
If the bumps are scratched or injured, the infection can spread to surrounding skin. Though most common in children, molluscum contagiosum can affect adults as well — particularly those with weakened immune systems. In adults with an otherwise normal immune system, molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is considered a sexually transmitted infection.
Molluscum contagiosum spreads through direct person-to-person contact and through contact with contaminated objects. The bumps associated with molluscum contagiosum usually disappear within a year without treatment but doctor-assisted removal is also an option.
Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include bumps on the skin that:
- Are raised, round and flesh colored
- Are small — typically under about 1/4 inch (smaller than 6 millimeters) in diameter
- Characteristically have a small indentation (umbilication) or dot at the top near the center
- Can become red and inflamed
- May be itchy
- Can be easily removed by scratching or rubbing, which can spread the virus to adjacent skin
- Usually appear on the face, neck, armpits, arms and tops of the hands in children
- May be seen on the genitals, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs in adults if the infection was sexually transmitted