What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

What are the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum?

The signs and symptoms of MC (molluscum contagiosum) include lesions (bumps) that:

  • Are round and raised
  • Are pearly pink or red in colour (they normally turn from skin colour to red as the body tries to fight off the infection) and should they become inflamed, become a deeper shade of red.
  • Normally appear on the face, neck, armpits, torso, top of the hands and arms, insides of the elbows or back of the knees.
  • Can be found in the anal and genital regions, on the inner thighs and lower abdomen in sexually transmitted infections.
  • Can appear as a single lesion or in groups of lesions
  • Are normally smaller than 0.6 centimetres (0.25 inches) in diameter, with most lesions being no more than 0.2 centimetres (0.08 inches)
  • Usually have a tiny indentation, also known as a dimple or dot located at the top of the bump, close to the centre.
  • May become itchy
  • Can easily be ruptured due to rubbing or scratching, this spreads the virus to the surrounding skin.

Pictures of molluscum contagiosum on various parts of the bodyImage: Molluscum contagiosum affecting various parts of the body 

When to see a doctor

Molluscum contagiosum often resolves without any treatment. Treatment can, however, be helpful in addressing any itching that may be experienced, as scratching and rubbing itchy lesions facilitates the spread of the infection. Treatment can also aid in the prevention of scarring.

If you do decide to consult a doctor, the lesions characteristic of this disease are typically easy to recognise and the condition is therefore easily diagnosed. Additional tests are often not required.

In the case of sexually active adolescents and adults with genital lesions, a doctor will often test for other sexually transmitted infections/diseases. An HIV test will be recommended for those with extensive lesions.

In cases that don't resolve on their own, disorders of the immune system (as well as any medications being taken for these) may also be investigated, as these can contribute to the development of the disease and/or delayed healing.

Is molluscum contagiosum contagious?

The term 'contagiosum' gives you an indication that the condition is in fact contagious. The virus responsible for the condition is spread through both skin-to-skin contact and contact with infected objects. 

What is the incubation period for molluscum contagiosum?

An incubation period refers to the average amount of time that the disease takes to manifest itself through symptoms from the first exposure. The incubation period for molluscum contagiosum is between two and six weeks, however, some individuals may take as long as six months for symptoms to show2.

How long is molluscum contagiosum contagious? When will I become non-contagious?

Molluscum contagiosum is contagious for as long as the warts or skin lesions caused by the virus are visible. Most individual lesions resolve within two months in those with a healthy immune system and the infection will generally clear completely within six to twelve months3,4,5.

Some people, especially those with compromised immune systems, may have these lesions for a number of years (with some cases reportedly lasting between three and five years)3,4,5.

Once the lesions have resolved, you will no longer be contagious. The period of infection will depend on the individual and as such, is rather variable.



2. US National Library of Medicine. July 2005. Braue A, Ross G, Varigos G, Kelly H. Epidemiology and impact of childhood molluscum contagiosum: a case series and critical review of the literature. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16060861 [Accessed 20.07.2018]

3. Wiley Online Library. January 2006. Brown J, Janniger CK, Schwartz RA, Silverberg NB. Childhood molluscum contagiosum. Available:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2006.02737.x [Accessed 19.07.2018]

4. US National Library of Medicine. May 2013. Butala N, Siegfried E, Weissler A. Molluscum BOTE sign: a predictor of imminent resolution. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23545377 [Accessed 19.07.2018]

5. US National Library of Medicine. December 2010. Lee R, Schwartz RA. Pediatric molluscum contagiosum: reflections on the last challenging poxvirus infection, Part 1. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21284280

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