Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus, which is a type of poxvirus.
Molluscum contagiosum is characterised by small, flesh coloured papules (raised individual bumps on the skin) that characteristically have a central dimple. They typically appear in “crops” of multiple lesions in a local area. It is spread through direct contact or by sharing items like towels or bedsheets.
The papules resolve by themselves without any treatment, however this can take up to 18 months. Once they resolve the skin returns to normal. Scratching or picking the lesions should be avoided as it can lead to spreading, scarring and infection.
No treatment or change in lifestyle is required and children can continue all their normal activities. They should avoid sharing towels or other close contact with the lesions to minimise the risk of spreading the infection. Usually just simple reassurance and education is enough.
Rarely, if bacterial superinfection infection occurs in the lesions as a result of scratching, this may require treatment with antibiotics. Options include topical fuscidic acid or oral flucloxacillin.
Immunocompromised patients and those with very extensive lesions or lesions in problematic areas such as the eyelid or anogenital area may require referral to a specialist. Specialist treatment options include:
- Topical potassium hydroxide, benzoyl peroxide, podophyllotoxin, imiquimod or tretinoin
- Surgical removal and cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) is an option but can lead to scarring
Last updated January 2020