Molluscum Contagiosum

What is molluscum contagiosum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral disease of the skin that causes small pink- or skin-colored bumps on the skin of a child. It is not harmful and usually does not have any other symptoms. The virus lives inside the bumps and is mildly contagious. The bumps usually clear up without treatment over 6 to 9 months.

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 also affect adults.

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The bumps are small and are usually pink- or skin-colored. Over time, the bumps may develop a small, sunken center. Children usually develop between two and 20 lesions, often in clusters. They are not harmful, but may cause some cosmetic concern for the child if they appear on the face or other visible areas.

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 usually are diagnosed on physical examination.

What is the treatment for molluscum contagiosum?

Specific treatment for molluscum contagiosum will be determined by the physician based on:

  • The child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • The child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Child or parent’s opinion or preference

In most cases, the lesions will heal without treatment over six to nine months. Additional treatment options may include:

  • Removal of the lesions
  • Use of topical medications (to speed up healing)
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Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.

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