Molluscum Contagiosum

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a benign, self-resolving viral disease of the skin that causes small pink or skin-colored bumps on your child's skin. It is not harmful and usually does not have any other symptoms. The virus is inside the bumps and is mildly contagious. These bumps usually clear over an extended period of time.

What causes molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus called the poxvirus. It is most common in children and adolescents, although it can affect adults.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The bumps are small and are usually pink or skin-colored. Eventually, the bumps tend to have a small sunken center. The lesions can occur alone or in groups or clusters. They are not harmful, but may cause some cosmetic concern if they appear on the face or irritation if present in the genitourinary area.

How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?

Molluscum contagiosum is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of the child. The lesions are unique and are easily recognized by an experienced practitioner.

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum

In most cases, the lesions will heal without treatment over a period of six to twelve months. It is best to not disrupt the bumps by scratching as this may lead to spreading of the virus to other areas of the body as well as scarring. As the body's own immune system mounts an inflammatory response to the virus, the lesions may get larger and irritated but this is usually a sign that the lesions are about to go away.

Minor discomfort can be treated with a topical steroid cream, oral benadryl for itch and gentle moisturizing. Rarely, the bumps can get infected. Other treatment options are available based on several factors including extent and location of the bumps and the child's age and medical history.

Reviewed by Chun H. Yin, MD, FAAP

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