Molluscum Contagiosum: Symptoms, Treatment and Causes

What Is Molluscum Contagiosum?

The main symptom of molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a number of small spots on the skin.

The spots are usually firm and dome-shaped, with a small dimple in the middle. They’re usually less than 5mm (0.5cm) across, although they can sometimes be bigger.

Typically they are pink or red on white skin or a beige colour on darker skin, and sometimes they may have a tiny white or yellow head in the centre. If this head ruptures, a thick yellowy-white substance is released, which is highly infectious.

It is important not to squeeze the spots, as this will increase the risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body.

The spots associated with MC are not usually painful, but they can sometimes be itchy and some people may develop areas of dry, red and cracked skin around them.

Most people have between 20 and 30 spots, however, people with a weakened immune system often have more. The spots may develop in small clusters and can spread across different parts of the body.

They’re most often found behind the knees, in the armpit, or on the groin area.

In a few cases, particularly when it’s spread during sexual contact, spots can develop on the genitals and the surrounding skin.

Molluscum contagiosum stages

In many cases, the individual spots will start to crust over and heal within 2 months. Some people may experience mild swelling and redness around each spot as it begins to heal.

The spots do not normally leave scars, but they may leave a small patch of lighter skin or a tiny pitted mark, particularly if treatment was needed.

As the virus that causes MC can spread to other parts of the body, new spots may develop as the old ones are disappearing. This can result in an episode of MC lasting for quite a long time.

Most cases clear up within around 6-18 months, but the condition can sometimes persist for several years.