Molluscum contagiosum is a skin condition caused by a viral infection. The molluscum virus is a pox virus that causes skin lesions in both children and adults, though it is far more common in children. The virus is by spread by contact with affected skin or contact with objects with the virus on it, such as towels and washcloths.
Molluscum appears as small, dome-shaped, bumps on the skin. The bumps usually have a small dimple in the center, and they range in size from the size of a pinhead to just smaller than a pencil eraser. They can be skin-colored or white in color. The bumps can appear anywhere on the skin, but usually they do not affect the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. They usually don't itch or hurt, but sometimes a dermatitis (itchy rash) can develop around the bumps causing a good amount of itch and discomfort. We can usually make the diagnosis just by looking, and a biopsy is usually not needed.
The molluscum virus is true to its name; it truly is contagious. It can be spread from one area of the body to another by scratching or touching the bumps. It can also be spread from person to person by close contact, so siblings who bathe or swim together can spread it to one another, as can people involved in contact sports. It can even be spread sexually. To avoid spreading it, make sure to avoid sharing towels, washcloths, razors, or other personal equipment. Also, avoid any close skin-to-skin contact until the lesions have healed.
Although in healthy people the molluscum virus will eventually resolve on its own without treatment, it can often take months to over a year. Also, people with suppressed immune systems can develop much more severe and long-lasting infections.
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