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Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum Contagiosum, or MC, is a virus in the Poxvirus family that causes small lumps or papules on the skin’s surface, much the same way the HPV virus manifests as warts. The lumps can range from ‘pinhead’ size to the size of a silver dollar and are usually light colored and smooth. Molluscum Contagiosum is very common in the United States, affecting accounting for nearly 1% of all skin disorders. Like warts, molluscum contagiosum can manifest as a single lesion or multiple lesions. MC can also spread easily, resulting in larger outbreaks. Although most molluscum contagiosum is found in children, adults are susceptible as well. As with smallpox, molluscum contagiosum only affects humans, and does not affect other mammals or animals.

Molluscum Symptoms

Once you have contracted molluscum contagiosum, the virus will incubate in your body for a number of weeks. Depending on your immune system strength, physical symptoms may appear quicker or not at all. Initially, the MC rash will start to appear as small flesh colored papules or raised bumps. As they mature, the papules may start to indent in the center, revealing a whitish core which can be ‘squeezed’ out. Once the MC rash is present, it is already contagious. Simply scratching or irritating the area can lead to more eruptions. In most cases, molluscum contagiosum is not painful or itchy.

Molluscum Contagiosum rashes can appear on any area of the skin, however they most commonly manifest on the face (eye area), the neck, the underarms and thigh area. MC rashes can also appear in the genital area and in this capacity can be spread through intercourse. MC rashes spreading via intercourse are considered STD’s.
MC rashes will usually manifest in groups of papules, usually fewer than 20 in each group. The amount of papules and the surface area of the rash is dependant on the strength of the immune system, although research is yet unclear on this. It has been shown that people with auto immune deficiencies tend to have larger areas affected, with a greater number of papules sometimes coalescing into large lesions.

Molluscum Contagiosum Transmission

Molluscum Contagiosum, like HPV and HSV1, is transmitted through direct contact or via a fomite. Touching the rash area of an infected individual transfers the virus to your body, at which point the virus will incubate for a number of weeks. In some cases, physical manifestations of the virus will never appear on some individuals. Common ways of transferring the virus include playing (especially among children), swimming, intimacy (where skin to skin contact is continuous), and touching (especially immediately after touching the rash area). Transmitting via fomites is also possible with molluscum contagiosum. A fomite is an inanimate object on which the virus can live for a short period of time. Examples of fomite transmission are sharing of towels and utensils that have been in direct contact with the infected area.

Treatment Methods

There are a variety of treatment options for molluscum contagiosum, and even without treatment the condition will eventually go away (sometimes in a matter of years). The most common reasons for treatment are; lesions on unsightly areas such as the face and eyelids, fear of spreading the virus to children or partners, and fear of permanent scarring when lesions become large or coalesce. Treatment options re very similar to those of common warts.

Cryotherapy: usually called ‘freezing’, cryotherapy is the practice of using liquid nitrogen to freeze the lesion. After freezing, the lesion can be scraped off with a curette. This method can cause minor discomfort and may have minor side effects such as blistering at the site of the removed lesion.

Laser Treatment: laser treatment is becoming a very popular method of treatment ranging from diseases treatment, surgical procedures and cosmetic surgery. As with blue light acne treatment, laser treatment for molluscum contagiosum literally burns off the lesion or papule. There is little to no scarring. The procedure itself may be uncomfortable or mildly painful and is still quite costly. More than one treatment may be necessary.

Over The Counter: in some cases, over the counter drugs will be used to treat severe MC. Tretinoin creams may be used (Retin-A) or Salicylic acid as a topical medication to reduce lesions. The same products are used in some form for severe acne.

Natural Treatment: natural treatments have been proven as effective as many over the counter medications and surgical procedures. Many natural healing oils and extracts can help reduce and eradicate molluscum contagiosum in a matter of days. Lemon Myrtle and Tea Tree Oil have been shown to be the most effective, however treatments are now sold everywhere that combine the perfect amount of each natural ingredient to save you time and money. Natural treatments for molluscum contagiosum have virtually no side effects.


Besides taking extra care when around others with molluscum contagiosum, there is no easy way to prevent you from contracting the virus. Avoid try to sharing towels and utensils. Avoid direct skin contact with those showing an MC rash.

If you already have MC and want to prevent spreading, avoid scratching the rash area. Try not to touch any area around the rash and launder clothes regularly while using a treatment regimen. If you have a rash on the face, try to avoid shaving those areas (for women the same applies for the legs). Of course, if the MC rash is present in the genital area, try to avoid sexual activity until your molluscum contagiosum symptoms are completely gone.


American Academy of Dermatology:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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