Molluscum contagiosum

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WHAT IS MOLLUSCUM CONTAGIOSUM? 

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by one of the pox viruses. It has no harmful consequences and lesions may persist 6-24 months before spontaneously healing.

HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED? 

The virus that causes molluscum is spread from person to person by touching the affected skin. The virus may also be spread by touching a surface with the virus on it, such as a towel, clothing, or toys. Once someone has the virus, the bumps can spread to other parts of their body by shaving or scratching a bump and then touching another part of the body. Molluscum can be spread from one person to another by sexual contact.

Although the virus might be spread by being in a swimming pool with someone who has the virus, baths, saunas, or other wet and warm environments, this has not been proven. It is more likely the virus is spread by sharing towels and other items around a pool or sauna than through water. 

WHAT DOES THE INFECTION LOOK LIKE? 

Molluscum contagiosum usually appears as painless firm, round, flesh-coloured papules or lumps that have a dimple in the middle. They often disappear within a year if they are untreated. If they are scratched or injured they can spread to surrounding skin. A local dermatitis can occur.

The lesions can take several weeks to grow and whereas in children they can be anywhere on the body, in adults, they usually occur on the thighs, groin, buttocks, lower abdomen and the genital area.  

HOW LONG DO THE LUMPS TAKE TO DEVELOP? 

From the time of infection, it takes an average of 2-3 months for the lumps to appear but this may vary from as little as one week to as long as 6 months.  Some people never get any lumps at all. They usually clear up by themselves but people often get recurrences.  

HOW IS MOLLUSCUM CONTAGIOSUM DIAGNOSED? 

Molluscum contagiosum is most often diagnosed from the distinctive clinical appearance of the lumps (papules).  

HOW IS MOLLUSCUM CONTAGIOSUM TREATED? 

Although the lumps usually disappear on their own, many patients prefer to be treated.  At the MSHC we usually freeze them using liquid nitrogen or sometimes apply imiquimod (Aldara) cream or podophyllotoxin paint. Avoid genital hair shaving/waxing/trimming during treatments to prevent the spread of MC.

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DISCLAIMER:
This fact sheet is designed to provide you with information on Molluscum contagiosum. It is not intended to replace the need for a consultation with your doctor. All clients are strongly advised to check with their doctor about any specific questions or concerns they may have. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the information in this pamphlet is correct at the time of printing.
Last Updated August 2012