Molluscum

What is molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin infection. It is caused by a pox virus. The infection causes raised, flesh-colored bumps with central indentations on the skin. The bumps are sometimes itchy, but not painful. They may spread or form lines when scratched. Almost any part of the skin can be affected. Common sites include the face, neck, armpit, arms, hands, and genitals. The bumps can also occur around the eyes and on the eyelids. The bumps are usually dome-shaped with a center dimple. This indentation is called umbilication.

This rash is not dangerous and treatment may not be needed. But the rash can spread if it is untreated. Because it is caused by a virus, antibiotics don't help. The infection usually goes away on its own within 6 to 18 months. The infection may continue in children with a weak immune system. This may be from diabetes, cancer, or HIV.


How do people develop molluscum?

Molluscum contagiosum spreads easily from one part of the body to another. It spreads through scratching or other contact. It can also spread from person to person. This often happens through shared clothing, towels, or objects such as toys. It has been known to spread during contact sports.


What are treatment options for molluscum?

Most molluscum lesions are benign and will eventually resolve. However, bumps near the eyelid margin can cause eye irritation. Surgery can be performed to remove the bumps, but they can come back.   When the molluscum lesions are on other parts of the body, blistering solutions or special creams can be used, however these treatments should not be used on the eyelid.


Can the spread of molluscum be prevented?

Treatment is often suggested in order to help prevent more spread of disease. People often will spread the lesions from one part of the body to another (autoinoculation) or spread them to other people. It can be important to avoid sharing personal items such as towels or washcloths with other people.