What is molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is a common and generally harmless condition that causes spots on skin. It is most common in children and young adults.
What causes molluscum contagiosum?
Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus. The virus can spread to others if the spots are in direct contact with someone else, or if they share the same item such as a towel. In young adults, transmission usually occurs through close sexual contact. The spots usually appear a few weeks later.
Most people with molluscum contagiosum are in good health.
What are the symptoms?
Usually the spots do not cause any symptoms, but they can sometimes be itchy.
Sexually transmitted molluscum spots usually affect the genitals, pubic region, lower abdomen, upper thighs and/or buttocks.
If the spots are scratched then they can become infected and feel sore or may bleed.
What does molluscum contagiosum look like?
The spots have the following characteristics:
- They are generally small (2 – 6 mm across)
- Are raised, like a small dome with a smooth, shiny surface
- Usually skin coloured, but can be red or pink
- Have a central dimple
How is molluscum contagiosum diagnosed?
Usually no tests are needed and the doctor or nurse will make the diagnosis based on the appearance of the spots.
All patients presenting to Sexual Health Wirral with molluscum contagiosum will also be offered screening for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis.
Can molluscum contagiosum be cured?
Yes, it will usually cure itself within 6 - 18 months.
How can molluscum contagiosum be treated?
Usually no treatment is needed and the spots clear themselves over time.
There are treatments which can help to speed up clearance of the spots. However, they may be painful and may increase the risk of scarring. It is important to consider this when deciding on the best treatment option.
If active treatment is needed you may be offered:
- Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) weekly until the spots are cleared, or
- A cream to apply to the spots
What else can you do?
Avoid squeezing, shaving or waxing the spots as it can result in scarring and increase the risk of spreading the spots to other parts of the body.
Avoid sharing towels, flannels, clothing and bedding as this can increase the risk of transmission.Spots should be covered with waterproof bandages or clothes prior to using swimming pools, jacuzzis or hot tubs.
Using condoms may help to reduce the risk of transmission to your sexual partner(s), but this is not absolute.