Health Topics

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin infection caused by a virus. 

Molluscum contagiosum is spread:

  • through skin-to-skin contact; this is the most common way to get it
  • through objects such as towels and clothing that come in contact with the lesions on an infected person
  • through swimming pools and sharing baths with an infected person 
  • by touching a lesion or bump on an infected person and then touching your body

Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum

Signs and symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include:

  • Lesions or bumps on thighs, buttocks, groin and lower abdomen
  • Lesions or bumps may occasionally appear on external genital and anal areas

Lesions may start as small bumps, which develop over a period of several weeks into larger bumps.

  • The lesions can be flesh coloured, gray-white, yellow or pink.
  • The lesions can cause itching or tenderness.
  • Lesions can last from two weeks to four years, with an average of two years.

People with HIV or others with weakened immune systems may develop more severe outbreaks.

Visit your doctor if you have symptoms that concern you so that a diagnosis can be made.  A doctor needs to see you to check what the lesions or bumps look like.

Most lesions clear up on their own, but you can get them treated with a chemical or freezing, or they may be removed surgically by a doctor. 

  • Removal of lesions reduces spread to other people and other parts of your body.
  • Lesions may come back; it may be a new infection or a recurrence of the same infection.

If you have molluscum contagiousum, avoid touching anything after you touch your lesions without washing your hands to prevent further spread.

Here are some tips to prevent molluscum contagiousum:

  • Be aware that molluscum contagiosum can be spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex or any time there is close skin-to-skin contact.
  • Practice safer sex - use condoms or dental dams from start to finish every time you have sex.  A condom or dental dam only protects the area of skin that they cover.
  • Use a condom on sex toys and do not share sex toys.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.  The chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection goes up with each new sexual partner.
  • Get tested for other sexually transmitted infections with each new sexual partner.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of molluscum contagiosum and do not have sex or intimate skin-to-skin contact with a partner when they have molluscum contagiousum symptoms.

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