Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by the poxvirus. Molluscum contagiosum appears as small tan or pink bumps on any part of the skin. Symptoms include a red or flushed appearance of the infected skin. Treatment may involve cryotherapy, manual extraction, surgical removal, the use of Retin-A, or the application of chemical acid.
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Dr. Alai is an actively practicing medical and surgical dermatologist in south Orange County, California. She has been a professor of dermatology and family medicine at the University of California, Irvine since 2000. She is U.S. board-certified in dermatology, a 10-year-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Fellow of the American Society of Mohs Surgery.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Molluscum contagiosum is a common skin disorder caused by a superficial skin
infection with the poxvirus. It is not caused by bacteria, yeasts, or
fungi. Diet does not seem
to affect molluscum contagiosum. Molluscum contagiosum appears as multiple,
scattered, small tan or pink little bumps on any part of the skin, including the
neck, trunk, arms, legs, buttocks, and face. Although possible, it is
extremely rare to have it all over the body in a healthy individual with a
normal immune system. Molluscum contagiosum most characteristically involves
just one or two body areas at a time, like the chest, back, or legs. Other common
locations include the face, neck, eyelids, thighs, genitals, and buttocks. It
generally spares the palms and soles.
Skin infected with molluscum contagiosum may have some
dilation of the small superficial blood vessels and inflammation, thereby giving
the bumps a red or flushed appearance. More males are affected than
females. Most people have no other symptoms, but itching can occur. The molluscum virus does not affect internal organs or enter the bloodstream.
Molluscum contagiosum can be spread from one body part to another. As the name implies, molluscum contagiosum is very contagious and easily transmitted from person to person via skin contact or sharing razors or towels, public swimming pools, wrestling mats, shared bathtubs, or hot tubs. Molluscum contagiosum can be cosmetically displeasing, but it is otherwise medically harmless in normal individuals. Molluscum contagiosum typically resolves over a period of months without any treatment. Molluscum contagiosum is generally treated with
common wart remedies like liquid nitrogen (freezing) or burning (cautery).
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 6/4/2012
Can my child go to day care or school if he or she has molluscum?
There should be no reason to keep a child with molluscum infection home from day care or school.
Growths not covered by clothing should be covered with a watertight bandage. Change the bandage daily or when obviously soiled.
If a child with bumps in the underwear/diaper area needs assistance going to the bathroom or needs diaper changes, then growths in this area should be bandaged too if possible.
Covering the bumps will protect other children and adults from getting molluscum and will also keep the child from touching and scratching the bumps, which could spread the bumps to other parts of his/her body or cause secondary (bacterial) infections.