What is Molluscum
Contagiosum? Similar to warts, it is a skin disease which affects the top layers of the skin
and is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) usually causing one or
more small, often itchy, pimple-like lesions/bumps. MCV is generally a benign
infection and symptoms may self-resolve with a normal immune system, although
compromised immune systems may have a harder time to combat the virus. MCV was
once a disease primarily of children, but it has evolved to become a sexually
transmitted disease in adults and is easily
spread by skin contact of any kind, even non sexual.
It is believed to be a member of the pox virus family and enters the skin through small breaks of hair
follicles. It does not affect any internal organs.
What do molluscum look like?
Molluscum are usually small flesh-colored or pink dome-shaped growths resembling
a pimple that often become itchy, red or inflamed. They may appear shiny and
have a small indentation in the center. Because they can spread by skin-to-skin
contact, molluscum are usually found in areas of skin that touch each other such
as the folds in the arm or the groin. They can be found anywhere on the body
such as the head, face, eyelids, neck, chest, arms, legs, abdomen, groin,
buttocks, and even the palms of the hands.
In people with immune system diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, the molluscum may be
very large in size and number, especially on the face.
How do you get molluscum?
The molluscum virus is transmitted from the skin, (does not have to be mucous
membranes), of one person who has these
growths to the skin of another person through skin to skin contact, or contact
with infected inanimate objects such as towels, clothing, bedding, shaving
razors or other shared items that have been in contact with lesions. MCV transmission has
been associated with swimming pools and sharing baths with an infected person. It occurs most often in cases where
skin-to-skin contact is frequent, in young children — especially among siblings,
through sexual contact is the most common form of transmission for adults.
If growths are present in the genital area, molluscum can be sexually
also may be transmitted by autoinoculation, such as touching a lesion and
touching another part of the body. You can also auto-infect yourself with
clothing, pillow cases, towels, caps or hats, razors and other things that come
in contact with the lesions. In other words, the virus survives outside
the body on inanimate objects!
What is the Incubation
Period for Molluscum Contagiosum? The incubation period averages 2 to 3 months and may range from 1
week to 6 months. Lesions can last from 2 weeks to 4 years and
more -- the average is 2 years, for a healthy person, but longer if
you have immunity problems such as HIV/AIDS. (I've had mine
now for over 7 years!)
Who is most at risk to get molluscum?
People exposed to the molluscum virus through skin-to-skin contact have an
increased risk of developing these growths, and especially at risk are those with compromised
immune systems such as HIV/AIDS. It is
common in young children who have not yet developed immunity to the virus.
Molluscum also seems to be more common in tropical climates where warmth and
humidity favor the growth of the virus.
How is Molluscum
Contagiosum Diagnosed? Diagnosis is usually made by the characteristic appearance of the lesion. To confirm the diagnosis of molluscum, a
dermatologist might scrape some cells from the growth, placing it onto a slide and
staining with a Gram stain which shows changes in infected cells
under an electron
Does molluscum contagiosum need to be treated?
Many dermatologists advise treating molluscum because the growths are easily
spread from one area of the skin to another. Some growths may appear as others
are going away. However, molluscum will eventually go away on it’s own in most
cases without treatment and usually doesn't leave scars. It may take from
6 months up to 5 years for all of the molluscum to go away. They may be more
persistent in people with a weakened immune system, and can last indefinitely.
Strengthening the immune system can help fight the virus and treatment is highly
How do dermatologists treat molluscum?
Most symptoms are
self-resolving, but generally lesions are removed. Removal of lesions reduces
autoinoculation and transmission to others. Molluscum are treated in similar ways that warts are
treated. They can be frozen with liquid nitrogen and/or destroyed with various
acids or blistering solutions, (such as podophyllin, cantharidin, phenol, silver
nitrate, trichloracetic acid or iodine), treated with an electric needle (called
electrocautery), scraped off with a sharp instrument (called curette), treated
daily with a home application of a topical retinoid cream or gel, (such as Retin-A),
a topical immune modifier, or other topical antiviral medications. Laser therapy
has also been found to be effective in treating molluscum. Some discomfort is
associated with freezing, scraping, using the electric needle, and laser
therapy. If there are many growths, multiple treatment sessions may be needed
every 3 to 6 weeks until the growths are gone. An option, especially with young
children, is not to treat molluscum and wait for the growths to go away. Lesions may recur, but
it is not clear whether this is due to reinfection, exacerbation of sub clinical
infection, or reactivation of latent infection.
What if the molluscum comes back after
It is always possible for a person’s skin to get infected again with the
molluscum virus. The condition may be easier to control if treatment is started
when there are only a few growths.
I keep from getting Molluscum Contagiosum?
Because transmission through
sexual contact is the most common form of transmission for adults, preventing
skin-to-skin contact with an infected partner will be most effective in
preventing MCV. To lessen contact from another person, avoid using
infected clothing, towels, razors, sheets and pillow cases. If you already
have it and want to lessen the auto infection, you should use a towel only once,
change clothing and bedding daily, and wash with bleach if possible between
uses, use disposable razors or disinfect your razor in 50% bleach and 50% water
solution for at least 15 mins. before use, avoid caps or hats and any other
Complications from Molluscum Contagiosum? In people with HIV infection, molluscum contagiosum is often a progressive
Is there any research going on about molluscum? New drugs are being developed to treat viral infections. The molluscum
infection has improved in some patients with AIDS who were taking certain
antiviral drugs. If new and effective antiviral drugs can be developed in a
topical form, perhaps they may be of benefit in the treatment of molluscum in
If you found this information useful or have found
more information about molluscum that isn't listed here, please let
I'm no doctor, but I discovered a way to keep
molluscum at bay with bleach. The tips offered above regarding
washing sheets and pillow cases in bleach are my own ideas. I
have been putting a cup of bleach in the bathtub water and laying in
the water first on my back with the back of my head under water.
Then I roll over and hold my breath and dip my face in the water
several times. If I can't take a bath, I fill the sink with
water and a half cup bleach and I use a sponge to sponge it on my
face, neck, head, chest, etc.
After the bleach soaking, you must wash your face
and hair with soap and clean water. Rinse thoroughly with
clean water and dry off with clean towel. I usually shower off
as usual after the bath/soaking.
This has helped me tremendously. I am not
cured though. I have a small dog and he sleeps with me and I
have passed the warts on to him and when in bed I scratch him and
get re-infected. So it is an endless cycle. I am curious
to know if one can be cured of this. The information above
says they usually go away after two years but I have had mine now
for at least 7 years. If the bleaching works for you please
let me know.
I have told both my HIV doctor and my
dermatologist about my bleaching efforts and they are amazed by the
So I would like to know about your experience with
molluscum, please write and tell me what you do to deal with them
and how it works for you.
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