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.
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a pox virus. It can spread to other people of the spots are in direct contact with someone else or they share the same items such as clothing or towels. The spots usually appear a few weeks later.
They are also more common and extensive in people who have eczema.
Symptoms and Signs
- Raised, round, flesh coloured spots
- Typically small (<6mm)
- Characteristically have a small indentation (umbilication) or dot at the top near the centre
- 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
Generally, molluscum contagiosum will clear spontaneously within a 6-18 month period. There are several treatments which can speed up the process which include topical therapies such as creams and lotions, freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) and curettage under local anaesthetic.
These treatments will only be offered under Consultant guidance and it must be taken into consideration that molluscum contagiosum is self-resolving.