Medical Dermatology

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a common viral skin infection. The virus spreads through skin to skin contact or even touching something that is infected with the virus. It is especially common in wrestlers, gymnasts, or anyone using shared clothing, towels, or athletic equipment. Lesions may also be spread by sexual activity. Picking and scratching at the lesions may also cause them to spread.  A person with a lowered immune system is more susceptible to molluscum contagiosum. It is also often seen in children and people who live in a tropical climate, as it thrives in warm and humid conditions. The virus usually first appears as small pink or flesh colored dome-shaped bumps that usually have a dimple in the center. They may be filled with a thick white cheesy or waxy substance. Although the bumps are usually painless, they can itch and turn red. Lesions most commonly appear on the face, neck, arms, hands, armpits, abdomen, genitals or inner thighs. Most cases of molluscum contagiosum will resolve on their own within 6 months. There are several different treatments which may speed resolution. These include:

  • Cryosurgery-the bumps are frozen off with liquid nitrogen
  • Curettage-the bumps are scraped from the skin using a tool called a curette
  • Topical Therapy-various acids and blistering solutions are applied to destroy the bumps
  • Topical retinoid creams
  • Topical anti-viral creams