Molloscum Contagiosum Symptoms

Bar Soap
Hand washing is one way of preventing the spread of molloscum contagiosum. (Image: Mark Deibert/iStock/Getty Images)

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral disease that affects the skin. It is most common among children, though it can affect people of all ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When it infects the genitals it is often mistaken for herpes, although the skin lesions are not painful—herpetic skin lesions typically hurt. Spread can most easily be prevented by avoiding contact with infected individuals (including the sharing of clothing and towels) and by following proper hand hygiene.

Skin Lesion

Molluscum contagiosum causes a characteristic progressing skin lesion. The infected area first shows symptoms in the form of a small reddish and raised patch of skin, also known as a papule. As the disease progresses, it forms a pinkish or flesh-colored nodule. The skin lesion that molluscum contagiosum causes often has a small dimple or pit in the center. The nodules can vary in size between the approximate size of a pinhead up to approximately the size of an eraser. The nodules generally are not painful, but can be itchy. Scratching can lead to irritation, inflammation and swelling.

Infection Sites and Spread

Molluscum contagiosum can affect the skin on any part of the body, though it rarely affects the palms or the soles of the feet (because the skin there is thicker). Typically, this virus affects the face, neck and abdomen, as well as the limbs (arms and legs). Molluscum contagiosum can appear as a single lesion or as a group of small papules. Molluscum contagiosum can also affect the genitals and be spread as a result of sexual contact with an infected person. The virus spreads as a result of direct skin-to-skin contact, so it typically occurs in unclothed areas. The disease can also spread from using contaminated clothing and towels, as well as from swimming in an infected swimming pool.

Immunocompromised

Because molluscum contagiosum is caused by members of the Poxviridae family of viruses, it can pose a more serious risk to people with suppressed immune systems. These immunocompromised individuals include people with AIDS, people who have recently undergone chemotherapy or patients who have received an organ transplant. In this case, the disease progresses more rapidly. Molluscum contagiosum typically goes away on its own after six to 18 months in healthy individuals, but the disease may persist for years in the immunocompromised.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.