Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum (mo-LUS-kum kun-tay-jee-OH-sum) 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, molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

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.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Molluscum contagiosum results in raised, round, flesh-colored bumps on the skin. The bumps:

  • Are small — typically under about a quarter inch (approximately 2 to 5 millimeters) in diameter
  • Characteristically have a small indentation or dot at the top
  • Can become red and inflamed
  • Can be easily removed by scratching or rubbing, which can spread the virus to adjacent skin

In children, the bumps typically appear on the face, neck, armpits, hands and arms. In adults, molluscum contagiosum may be a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is usually seen on the genitals, lower abdomen, inner upper thighs and buttocks.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect you or your child has molluscum contagiosum, consult your family doctor or a dermatologist.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use