What are the causes, risk factors and complications of molluscum contagiosum?

What are the causes, risk factors and complications of molluscum contagiosum?

What are the causes, risk factors and complications of molluscum contagiosum?

What are the causes of molluscum contagiosum?

The cause of MC is the virus named MCV (molluscum contagiosum virus).

This virus is able to spread through the below ways:

  • Personal contact – This includes coming into contact with the skin of an infected person through embracing, kissing or touching
  • Coming into contact with objects that are contaminated – These objects include toys, clothes, linen, towels and surfaces. Viruses can live on hard surfaces for as long as 24 hours.
  • Sexual contact – Having sexual relations, this includes physical contact that is intimate and sexual intercourse – both of which can spread the virus

Should you be exposed to the virus and infected, the virus can cause lesions at the point of contact and also spread to other parts of the body.

You will be contagious until the last lesion has disappeared.

What are the risks and complications?

Risk factors

The biggest risk factor associated with the molluscum contagiosum virus is when someone who is uninfected touches a lesion on the skin of someone who is infected or comes into contact with a contaminated item that was recently used by the infected person. 

Those who suffer from immunosuppression (this is a weakened immune system), have an increased risk of infection. This group of people will also experience the virus rapidly spreading, often with larger lesions.

The immune system is the body's defence mechanism against invading organisms that it deems harmful. Those who have a weakened immune system may be suffering from an underlying condition which compromises their body’s ability to defend itself.

Other people who have a higher risk of MC developing are swimmers, gymnasts, wrestlers and people who use saunas and steam rooms as they may come into contact with the virus more easily due to shared facilities and close personal contact.

The virus can also be transmitted sexually through sexual contact or intimacy with an infected person. 


MC (molluscum contagiosum) very rarely causes other issues, however, some complications may occur.

Some of these complications include:

  • Scarring – Once the molluscum contagiosum infection has healed and eventually cleared, there may be small patches of skin that are paler and slightly indented as a result of the lesions. These scars are more likely if the lesions were infected.
  • Bacterial infection – A bacterial infection may develop if the open lesions are exposed to bacteria. This will need to be treated with antibiotics.
  • Eye complications – It is possible that a secondary eye infection develops as a result of the virus, this may include a condition known as keratitis. Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear tissue found on the front area of the eye. Your eye may appear red with your vision slightly blurred. Another condition that may develop is pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis. This refers to an infection of the inflammation of the lining of the eyes and the membrane of the eyeball. Both of these eye conditions will need to be treated with antibiotics.

It is advised that you make an appointment with your doctor if you have any suspicions of a bacterial infection developing on the lesions or if you suffer from any issues with your eyes as described above. If you have a bacterial infection this may manifest through redness, pain and swelling in the area of the lesion on your skin as well as in the underlying tissue.

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